Winter forecast, part I: the woolley bear prediction

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:48 PM GMT on November 20, 2008

Share this Blog
3
+

According to legend, the severity of the upcoming winter can be judged by examining the pattern of brown and black stripes on woolly bear caterpillars--the larvae of Isabella tiger moths. If the brown stripe between the two black stripes on either end of the caterpillar is thick, the winter will be a mild one. A narrow brown stripe portends a long, cold winter. Some traditional forecasters say that the 13 segments on the caterpillar's body correspond to the 13 weeks of winter.

The Hagerstown, Maryland woolley bear forecast
The Hagerstown, Maryland Town and Country Almanack has been publishing weather forecasts and weather lore for 211 years. The Almanack sponsors an annual woolly bear caterpillar event, where local school children in Hagerstown collect woolly bears. A panel of judges examines the collected specimens and issues a woolly bear forecast for the upcoming winter. The results of this year's contest, which ended October 31: "From the small number of woolly bears, the consensus is that the winter will be very mild. The woolly bears predicted this by their three (3) bands of which the front band (representing the first half of winter and black in color) was shorter in length and normal. The back band (representing the second half of winter) was very small, thus indicating the mild winter prediction. As a result of those markings, which were similar in all woolly bears, the sponsors were able to make the predictions."

Oil Valley Vick
Naturally, this forecast only applies to the Hagerstown, Maryland area, so other locales will need to do their own woolly bear work to gauge the local winter forecast. In Oil City, Pennsylvania, just 150 miles northwest of Hagerstown, organizers of the Pumkin Bumkin Festival have located the lair of "Oil Valley Vick", a woolly bear caterpillar of unknown forecasting ability, but great potential. In his inaugural forecast on October 23 this year, Oil Valley Vick wowed the crowd at the Pumkin Bumkin Festival when he crawled out of his log. The black stripes covering fully 2/3 of Oil Valley Vick's body left no doubt that he expected a cold, severe winter for northwestern Pennsylvania.


Figure 1. Kelly the woolly bear caterpillar with her owner, six-year-old Kurstin Hartsell of Ansonville, NC. Image credit: Jim Morton, Avery County Chamber of Commerce.

The Banner Elk, North Carolina Woolly Bear forecast
In Banner Elk, NC it's the fastest woolly bear caterpillar which is judged to be the best forecaster. After successfully out-sprinting hundreds of other woolly bears, this year's winner of the 31st Annual Woolly Worm Festival race was Kelly the Woolly Worm, raced by six-year-old Kurstin Hartsell of Ansonville, NC. Kelly the Woolly Worm's official forecast for the winter of 2008-2009 calls for the first four weeks to be cold and snowy, followed by three weeks of seasonably cold weather, followed by six weeks of snowy and cold weather (severely cold in week 11, March 1-7). A study of the predictions of the Banner Elk woolly bears between 1978 and 2000 revealed that "woolly worm winter predictions were exactly on target eight times out of 23, or 34.8%. Woolly worm predictions were close (4.0-4.9) another five times (21.7%). Woolly worm predictions were right in some areas, wrong in others (3.0-3.9) six times (26.1%). Woolly worm predictions were wrong more than they were right (2.0-2.9) four times (17.4%). Put another way, the woolly worms were close or completely right 57% of the time, and more than half right 82.6% of the time".

Other studies of woolly bear forecast accuracy
Several scientific studies have been done on woolly bear caterpillar forecasts, including one by the American Museum of Natural History. None of these studies has shown any correlation between woolly bear markings and the severity of the upcoming winter. According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, Dr. Charles Curran, curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, studied woolly bear markings between 1948-1956 in Bear Mountain State Park, 40 miles north of New York City. He found some preliminary results that seemed to indicate that the thickness of the bands might indicate the severity of the upcoming winter. However, Dr. Curran gave up the study in 1955 after finding two groups of caterpillars living near each other that had vastly different predictions for the upcoming winter, according to science writer Ned Rozell.

So, two out of three woolley bear forecasts point to a colder than average winter for the Appalachian region of the U.S. In upcoming blog posts, I'll analyze what NOAA's computer models and the Old Farmer's Almanac have to say about the upcoming winter.

Portlight making keynote presentation at charity funding conference today
The Portlight.org charity is making the keynote presenation at a funding conference hosted by a coalition of state and federal agencies which work in the area of post-disaster relief involving people with disabilities. The presentation is this morning, November 20, at 9:15 am EST. You can follow the proceedings via the portlight webcam at stormjunkie.com. At the conference, they plan to discuss the Hurricane Ike relief efforts made possible by the Weather Underground community. Thanks for everyone's support for making all this possible!

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 270 - 220

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10Blog Index

Yeah Rob. Dried out a bit today. The rains fell all around me.
The City is a complete mess. Cars washed away, roads and bridges gone awol, etc. 2 fatalities from mud slides, in different areas.

Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 23080
Did anyone see ColdPlay on the Colbert Report?
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Bad Editing or Bad camera work there,..eh?

Maybe She needs Joe the Turkey Slayer..LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
264. GeoffreyWPB

Geoffrey, I'm a bit of a computer geek, (pays the bills) so if I can ever help with anything, feel free to WUmail me
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
yikes...gov. palin pardons thanksgiving turkey while turkies being killed behind her...uggggg
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10577
One can ask me anything anytime,
Use the wu-mail system if its busy.
I always answer,maybe not right away ,but I always respond.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Many of us during the busy time were afraid to ask how to post pics...sat. loops..links..you tube stuff..nice to ask that stuff now and learn while it is slow..
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10577
Yeah...Ray, Stevie Ray, Big Bill Brunsy, Sony Terry and Brownie Magee...the list goes on...Oh yeah, and Ernest Cooly, that's the old black gentleman that taught me guitar. Not that I'm ready to move on, but it will be righteous to see those ol' boys one day.
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10030
LOL Pat. Burl Ives..

The moon is high
and so am I
the stars are out
and so will I be
Pretty soon

and I can tell
you're mad at me
you stand there
tellin'me
goodbye

But I say no
you cant go
I love you so much
I cant let you get away

come the dawn
it will dawn
on me,
you're gone.........etc.

Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 23080
Anytime for help..
Were all about that here.
from canes to People. Its a fine site and is always changing,for the better hopefully.Was a Long Powerful Season and now we can reflect back and see that we did some good.


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Pottery,

Keepin your head above water?
Hey, I'm up for drummin or singin
Sounds like a good time.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Nite Surfmom

Hey guys!

Shep, I have no beef with STL. He put me on ignore for saying your post contained some good points, and he is a little condecending, but If he could get over thinking anyone who disagrees with him is a troll, then no problem.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Im sure Ray has a good table up front upstairs with dem angels and a Nightly Gig..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Pat, Mensch, Thanks.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 23080
thanks pat
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10577
Im a Xmas Sap..Love the Old ones,from That to Bing..Burl Ives Silver and Gold ,my fav though.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
heard a rumor she was at one of Pottery's party during her career....
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10577
243 pat
I'm all in for that. I see even my girlfriend Bonnie Raitt,the queen of blues guitar, is on the agenda.
Too bad Ray Charles passed and couldn't be there.
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10030
give it a try..

Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10577
251. Patrap
1:44 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
Mensch (Yiddish: מענטש mentsh) means "a person of integrity and honor"[1]. The direct opposite of a Mensch is an Unmensch (meaning: an utterly cruel or evil person). According to Leo Rosten, the Yiddish maven and author of The Joys of Yiddish, mensch is "someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being “a real mensch” is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous"[2].
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
250. pottery
1:43 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
What's a "mensch" ??
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 23080
249. Patrap
1:41 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
ALso on the RIGHT side of THIS page see this:

Recommended Links:

* About Dr. Jeff Masters
* Flying into Hurricane Hugo
* How to start your own blog, and add blog images and links Link
* Description of computer models
* Buy Weather Underground shirts and mugs
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
248. surfmom
1:41 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
caught that Tampa -- Thanks I got it for my book ! I'm out
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
247. surfmom
1:39 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
Geeze - now that's lightening - fab pic Aussie

Ok I am calling it early today -- I am having trouble sitting on my butt LOL -- rode too much, jockey position is hell after two laps.

Just want to sleep..so I can get up and repeat LOL
See you all in the morning
Quoting theshepherd:

Big Ditto here. And it's a shame. He's seems to be a very smart fella with a lot to offer.
I've found,in 32 years of construction, that if you pick a man back off the ground after you've beat him down and "then" bring him back into the fold, that you have a far superior individual.
Humility, if survived and accepted, is the most powerful virtue.
I would warmheartingly support bringing him back.
Any comments ?
you are a mensch!! : )
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
246. Patrap
1:39 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
To post a Youtube do this..

Select the one you want.
Then use the EMBED url in the Middle on the right.
Then paste directly into the comment section,bypassing the image button.
For a Full Embed.


For a Link..use the top URL on the top of the Page,copy.
Then use the comment LINK button and paste.
Post comment.
Try it in preview a few times.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
245. pottery
1:37 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
Heavy rain now, in Caracas Venezuela.
Press. 1008
Humidity 98%
Temp 68F

Sounds bleak there....
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 23080
244. TampaSpin
1:36 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
TampaSpin 6:58 PM EST on November 20, 2008
Quoting surfmom:
Was reading last night's posts this morning.... new vocab word - What is a "clipper" in regards to weather??? Thanks


An Alberta Clipper is a term used for a Small piece of energy (low) that spins out of Alberta Canada area and moves south into the Midwest and East coast very quickly dumping usually lite snow in the areas. It usually goes rides the dipp in the jet stream.

Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 177 Comments: 20430
243. Patrap
1:36 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
Fats is Doing OK.His House is Rebuilt in the 9th Ward and he did that Tribute CD ,or it was done for Him last SUmmer.Plant,Krauss..other Stars on it too.Link

Icons from the world of rock, blues, reggae, pop and country music have joined together to salute the genius of legendary piano man FATS DOMINO for the upcoming double CD set, Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino.

Goin' Home is set for a September 25th release on Vanguard Records. This stellar tribute to one of the cornerstones of rock n' roll music will help raise desperately needed funds specifically earmarked for instruments to be donated to New Orleans' public school children.

Monies raised from the sales of Goin' Home will also go toward Domino's neighborhood by creating a community center in the Crescent City's still ravaged Lower 9th Ward. Proceeds of Goin' Home will fund additional community related programs.

The Tipitina's Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation dedicated to preserving the cultural legacy of New Orleans through music education for the youth and providing programs that support working musicians of New Orleans and the Gulf Region, conceived and executive produced Goin' Home.

The roster of music royalty contributing their interpretations of classic Fats Domino songs include: Sir Elton John (Blueberry Hill), Sir Paul McCartney (I Want To Walk You Home), Tom Petty (I'm Walkin'), Robert Plant (It Keeps Rainin'), Willie Nelson (I Hear You Knockin'), B.B. King (Goin' Home) and Neil Young (Walkin' To New Orleans).

Goin' Home will also feature the late John Lennon's version of Fats' most popular song, "Ain't That A Shame."

In addition, some of modern music's most prolific artists have contributed their time and talent including Lenny Kravitz, Norah Jones, Lucinda Williams, Ben Harper with The Skatalites, Toots and The Maytals, Taj Mahal, Herbie Hancock and Bonnie Raitt.

Up and coming stars such as Marc Broussard with Sam Bush, Corrine Bailey Rae and Joss Stone with blues master Buddy Guy have recorded their renditions for this unique compilation.

The participation of some of New Orleans' greatest musicians has been paramount in the process of recording of Goin' Home. Dr. John, Art Neville, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Marcia Ball, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, Galactic, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Theresa Andersson, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Rebirth Brass Band and NOLA funk masters George Porter Jr., Zigaboo Modeliste, Leo Nocentelli and Henry Butler.

Goin' Home is the brainchild of Tipitina's Foundation executive director Bill Taylor. "The idea came to me last September when I was trying to come up with a way to thank Fats for donating the proceeds of his last recording, Alive and Kickin' to our Foundation. I also wanted to create a project that could shine the spotlight on our city's unique music culture".

Kevin Welk, President and General Manager of The Welk Music Group stated, "We feel privileged to be involved in such a worthy project. Not only is this a great cause, it continues to raise awareness to a great city that needs all of our support."


Fats Being Rescued Post Katrina in the 9th Ward.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
242. theshepherd
1:35 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
Hi Surfmom, how's it hang--- Oops, been talking music with the guys and drinking rum. Need to make the transgender thingy here.
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10030
241. GeoffreyWPB
1:34 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
212. GeoffreyWPB 7:58 PM EST on November 20, 2008
hi patrap...could u please e me step by step instructions for posting you tubes videos on here? easy for a novice to understand?

Guess i asked a busy or uninterested person...if anyone can help...would greatly appreciate....
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10577
240. surfmom
1:30 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
Quoting pottery:
LOL MOM. We even have Malls too.......
nooooooo - seriously.....??? ( I use to be one of those -- then I had boys & life changed... for me it was for the better)
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
239. pottery
1:30 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
WOW, Great images Aussie. Very nice.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 23080
238. surfmom
1:29 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
Quoting pottery:
In case you missed it WUBA is WeatherUndergroundBloggersAnnonymous. For the addicts among us....
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
237. pottery
1:29 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
LOL MOM. We even have Malls too.......
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 23080
236. AussieStorm
1:28 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
Some more Lightning pics from the past week of storms around Australia


Cheers AussieStorm
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15749
235. surfmom
1:27 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
229 -- I'm really thinking I live in the wrong neighborhood Pottery -- great diseases, good rum, NO wetsuits, what am I doing in the land of Mall Queens???
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
234. pottery
1:25 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
I would have given ANYTHING to have met Fats Domino..............
Nice, Pat.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 23080
233. surfmom
1:25 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
Quoting theshepherd:
219 pot
Hey, I'm with you bro spirit...snap a C bass,pull three and thump four and let's get it on ;>)
woooohoooo yeah BABY!!
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
232. GeoffreyWPB
1:25 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
Gotcha Stormchaser..do you think this cold spell is long term trend or just an anomaly?
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10577
231. surfmom
1:23 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
#179p451 -- that lake effect is very fun to watch --as long as it's not coming my way.
Shepherd -- THANK YOU!!!

TampaSpin - someone -- make it warm... although the performance of the horses in game today was terrific. It's clear that one of the bunch just does not do well in the humidity -- today he was perfectly behaved -- fast and very handy
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
230. theshepherd
1:22 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
216 pat
Yeah, go ahead and stick your finger in my eye LOL...You live at ground zero
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10030
229. pottery
1:22 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
OK, here's the deal. Sunday, Nov. 30. Here at my house.
Its Pots annual Parang Party.
Bring your own drinks, food is supplied.
8:00pm till......

Parang is the music we do locally at Christmas time. Comes from Venezuela. Giutars, Quatros (a 4 string, like a ukele), Mandolines, Box bass. Women vocals. Plenty maracas, tambourine, bongo percussion. The band is about 12 strong.
Parang music celebrates The Birth of the Prince of Peace,
, his Mother, Maria, and is fast, harmonious, and you have to be able to dance Castillian at a clip.

All are invited.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 23080
228. Stormchaser2007
1:19 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
221. Stormchaser2007 8:11 PM EST on November 20, 2008
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
michael's opinion didn't get him banned...it was his choice words for those who disagreed with him.

I know that....Its the way he disagrees with people that got him banned.

I just said that.


LOL....I know. I was just saying that I knew why he was banned.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15718
227. theshepherd
1:18 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
219 pot
Hey, I'm with you bro spirit...snap a C bass,pull three and thump four and let's get it on ;>)
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10030
226. GeoffreyWPB
1:15 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
221. Stormchaser2007 8:11 PM EST on November 20, 2008
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
michael's opinion didn't get him banned...it was his choice words for those who disagreed with him.

I know that....Its the way he disagrees with people that got him banned.

I just said that.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10577
225. Patrap
1:14 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
One from da Vault..
Plant,Page,Jones(Bass) Neil Young.

When The Levee Breaks Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
224. pottery
1:13 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
In case you missed it WUBA is WeatherUndergroundBloggersAnnonymous. For the addicts among us....
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 23080
223. GeoffreyWPB
1:12 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
American Pie
By Don McLean

A long, long time ago I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while.


Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10577
222. pottery
1:11 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
LOL, son had an Ovation. Sold it just recently. I play an Alhambra flamenco. Son in law has a collection of stuff.
I like the Flamenco guitar for its volume and hard action.
But these days I am sorely out of touch......
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 23080
221. Stormchaser2007
1:11 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
michael's opinion didn't get him banned...it was his choice words for those who disagreed with him.


I know that....Its the way he disagrees with people that got him banned.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15718
220. theshepherd
1:10 AM GMT on November 21, 2008
My only brush with the big dogs was to share a grouper sandwich with Buffett down in Lauderdale. What a hoot.
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10030

Viewing: 270 - 220

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10Blog Index

Top of Page

About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.