Can folklore predict the winter forecast? We asked the experts

Weather

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Computer modeling is helpful when making a long-term forecast, and mother nature provides clues too. But, did you know that there are over 20 folklore signs of a hard winter according to the Farmer’s Almanac?

One of my favorite signs of a harsh winter is finding an unusual abundance of acorns. I found a lot in my backyard this season along with squirrels gathering those nuts early, to fortify against a hard winter.

Can these signs from folklore actually predict the weather? We asked the Missouri Department of Conservation about them.

“Acorn production in trees is really more of a sign of how good the season was that they already lived through. The weather conditions were really good the previous season, spring and summer. Then yes we can expect to see better acorn production in the fall,” said Dan Zarlenga.

Do thicker-than-normal corn husks point to a hard winter?

The condition of the corn and a lot of other plants is more a thing that shows you how the previous season was. One theory is that the corn husks get thicker because there has been a wet season prior. The thicker husks and are more resistant to water,” said Zarlenga.

Is the early migration of geese and ducks a good indicator of a harsh winter?

“So they could be a predictor to weather that’s coming in the immediate future, like in the next few days or something. But not so much how the whole season is going to be,” said Zarlenga.

How about the yearly migration of monarch butterflies?

“It is a similar phenomenon to the birds migrating. They’re going to respond to seasonal changes, primarily. A lot of migrations are triggered by seasonal changes like day length. They are just preparing for winter,” said Zarlenga.

Will the shape of the inside of a persimmon predict the weather? Probably not but it has an interesting description.

“The folklore says that if the shape is a shovel then we’re going to get a lot of snow. Finding a knife in the persimmon points to biting cold. A spoon means lots of snow and a fork means mild winter,” said Zarlenga.

Does the condition of a wooly worm’s coat predict a harsh or mild winter?

The condition of the woolly worm’s coat is a reflection of his health,” said Zarlenga. “Wooly worms molt as they get older and they tend to get more reddish in their coloring. So, it’s as much an indicator of the wooly worm’s age as it is any weather to come in the future.”

We can all check this one out soon. Does a dark breastbone in a Thanksgiving turkey provide any clues to the coming season?

“I haven’t researched that one. It may be a better question for a chef,” said Zarlenga.

Many of us probably thought at least some of these folklore signs would predict the type of winter ahead, but Dan Zarlenga summarizes these signs as plants & animals being reactive to previous seasons rather than predictive of the next season.

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