Winter forecast, part I: the woolley bear prediction

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

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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

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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: 10093
Hey, we should really start "The WUBA Band".
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24390
Pottery
Oh no, surely I did not just hear you say you play guitar. That makes me want to pack up the old Ovation Master Classical and head to the bamboo forest for a little "slow thump blues".
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10093
Jr at the Neutral Ground Link Here on Sunday Open Mike Night.Link

With the Hamer Detroit Brooks gave Him after Jazz Camp at Newman High.
Eli's and Peyton Manning High School.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128667
Been Lucky enuf to see many of the Greats here.

Had a sit down lunch with Fats Domino and shared a Heineken with Him and Dr.John,many moons ago during a Stage Job.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128667
michael's opinion didn't get him banned...it was his choice words for those who disagreed with him.
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I encourage all to nurture the Musical,gifted or not. It expands the mind.
And studies show most children who are learned in a Instrument and Plays regularly have Higher overall academic success as well.
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207 pat
Outstanding. Wait till he finds Big Bill Brunsy from the 20's.
In 1960 when I was 10, my dad passed and the old black man,who I dearly loved, that cooked in our family restaurant, talked my mom into buying me my first guitar. He said "Ola, that boy got the blues"...My first song was "Nobody knows you when you're down and out"...Hell, I've been blues ever since. Clapton is my teacher now...Thank you for supporting your son's talent ...peace and karma to you and all you love... LOL
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hi patrap...could u please e me step by step instructions for posting you tubes videos on here? easy for a novice to understand?
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I Have no problem with brining back STL. But then, I dont rush the bait like some hot-heads here do.
He has plenty weather-lore to offer.
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love the cold weather here in west palm!!!! as long as no crop destroying freezes...i could live with this!
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Evening all. Its "back-in-times" night ? Great !
Fortunately, I am a competent guitarist, from the "good music " days.
Turned my son, then my son-in-law, on to the real music. Have to admit, they are way better than me. Both guitarists! Great harmony, and my daughter has an incredible voice. Their renditions of "Feed your Head","Tambourine Man", and several Beatles and Simon&Garfunkel "the Sparrow" Etc are worth money I keep telling them.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


LOL...Well hopefully he'll learn his lesson. Hes not very good at having a discussion over that kind of stuff.

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 ?
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204. theshepherd 6:32 PM CST on November 20, 2008
197 pat
Excellant. Too bad the "youngins" wern't there to experience the Beatles and the others in "THE BEGINING".
By the way, have you ever heard Paul solo on a six string? He is a master. Same goes for Stevie Nix's lead.
Too many unsungs to mention...lol



Son is 15 turning 16 and a Guitar Gifted soul.

He has a hamer,a sweet Ibanez,..a Fender, a Shecter,plus plays Trumpet for High School at Jesuit here.
Freshman.
Hes into 60-70 Rock and collecting vinyl Like GM stock
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Footage of The Beatles in New Orleans 1964 Link
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Makes me smile every time I see this....Link
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197 pat
Excellant. Too bad the "youngins" wern't there to experience the Beatles and the others in "THE BEGINING".
By the way, have you ever heard Paul solo on a six string? He is a master. Same goes for Stevie Nix's lead.
Too many unsungs to mention...lol
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10093
Washington State Mt.St Helen's Eruption with the Expanding Plume visible from Orbit, 36 minutes Post Eruption

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Quoting Patrap:
At least you didnt get a Poop sandwich in wu-mail Like I did.


LOL

Life is too short.

STL is a Good Guy,..he just has er,lesser Social Skills.
Like a Porcupine,one could say.


LOL...Thats a good way to put it.
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Quoting theshepherd:
195
Don't feel like the long ranger. He banned me from his blog after one converstaion when I spanked him for calling everyone an idiot. LOL


LOL...Well hopefully he'll learn his lesson. Hes not very good at having a discussion over that kind of stuff.
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LOL

Life is too short.

STL is a Good Guy,..he just has er,lesser Social Skills.
Like a Porcupine,one could say.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128667
195
Don't feel like the long ranger. He banned me from his blog after one converstaion when I spanked him for calling everyone an idiot. LOL
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10093
Kinda does feel like a land of ice and snow....Link
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Banned on the Run...Link

...reloaded,High Quality
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194 keeper
Help me out here amigo.
Can you direct me to a site that can vindicate predictions this far in advance?
I've seen hurricane predictions this far in advance as somewhat dubious.
Not being a smartycat, just trying to learn a thing or two.
Suprising what I've taken in and digested after yesterday's war. Darn near a "convert" to that "word I shall not mention" LOL
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10093
Well STL's rant about GW yesterday got him banned....Not that surprising due to the fact he would put you on ignore and call you stupid if you disagreed with him.
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Quoting P451:


True, things have changed in the past after an initial cold "snap". Yet, there is just something about this late summer and fall....that if you work with animals or plants...and are just outside in general...something different from the past three years (warm three years) seems to be brewing. Something that reminds you of a harbinger of things to come - that thing to come - being cold and stormy.

We'll see, Weather has always been a fluid entity not a static one, so you never know, but a number of signs are there that - at the very least - the Mid Atlantic, North East, and Ohio Valley/Great Lakes region seem poised for a "classic winter" if you will.

imo temps much below normal till early jan with half the total snow amounts for last winter occuring this winter colder means drier the farther below zero the drier the closer to freezing point wetter except over bodies of water down wind of the west north west north flows
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Quoting Patrap:
When it "Rains"..the "Song Remains the Same"....,too.Link

...Sup,Ike
IKE
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Quoting Patrap:
When it "Rains"..the "Song Remains the Same"....,too.Link

...Sup,Ike
IKE KNOWS THIS SONG.
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Quoting ILwatcher:
Wow, Tampa!

It looks pretty miserable in KY right now.


Ya it does.....just spoke to my family in Indiana it is down right miserable up there and been that way now about 5 days.....that does not happen very often up there to be that cold and snowy this time of year.
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182 P451
Carefull what you wish for.
It doesn't take blizzards to kill bugs.
After OPEC's next meeting this month and they cut production, you may not welcome your heating bill. LOL
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Quoting afcjags03:
All I know is I am sick of this cold weather here in Jacksonville, FL. This is pretty unusual for our area to have the cool weather like this for such a long duration. Thee is no clear end in sight either for temps will stay that way for the next 5 days.

I passed a decent sized retention pond this morning that was forming a little bit of ice! It's been quite a while since I have seen something like that here.
Al Gore calls it GLOBAL WARMING>
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Wow, Tampa!

It looks pretty miserable in KY right now.
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Quoting conchygirl:
That wooley bear is a cute little insect. Very interesting. Thanks!
OSC!
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All I know is I am sick of this cold weather here in Jacksonville, FL. This is pretty unusual for our area to have the cool weather like this for such a long duration. Thee is no clear end in sight either for temps will stay that way for the next 5 days.

I passed a decent sized retention pond this morning that was forming a little bit of ice! It's been quite a while since I have seen something like that here.
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Quoting IKE:


I don't miss the humidity, but...yeah, after awhile spring and warmer weather sounds nice.
No need for AC in the car.
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Amazing to be middle of November to look like this.....

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Good evening all.....been Christmas Decor shopping all afternoon.....im dead tired running from one retailer to another.....LOL
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180. kdav
so tonights game in pitt will be snowy. too bad no one will watch lol.
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Quoting P451:
Woolley Bears say mild winter?

So far it would appear they're dead wrong then.

It's been much colder than it has in the past three years through fall here in New Jersey. The leaves have fallen several weeks earlier than they had the last three years. We've already had 3 snow squalls and last year we did not get our first until January.

It's been a persistent cool weather pattern not a two day thing that then bounces back.

My herb garden all flowered early this summer and stopped producing early this summer. Other flowering plants all finished their cycle much earlier than usual.

I am in the firm belief that this will be at least a "normal" winter for my New Jersey and maybe even a slight bit cooler than normal.

The past three years have been way above normal and that's clearly about to change.

So, somebody start stepping on the caterpillars, cause they are wrong.

Dead wrong here too in VA already got flurries and frost not to mention below freezing temperature every night
Member Since: March 29, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2373
64.9 °F / 18.3 °C
Clear
Humidity: 34%
Dew Point: 36 °F / 2 °C
Wind: 0.0 mph / 0 km/h
Wind Gust: 4.0 mph / 6 km/h
Pressure: 29.97 in / 1014.8 hPa (Falling)
Visibility: 10.0 miles / 16.1 kilometers
UV: 1 out of 16
Clouds:
Clear -
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 68 ft / 20 m
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I'm sold on a long cold November, but I'm not sold "yet" on a long cold winter.
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10093
no end in sight for this midwinter pattern
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171
After climatized to your normal weather, that's pretty darn cold. Specially since the wind never,not ever, stops blowing.
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10-day forcast for West Palm Beach has lows in the 40's for three-straight days next week. I can't remember the last time that happened. (If it holds true, which it usually doesn't)
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170. IKE
Afternoon discussion from Birmingham,AL....

AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BIRMINGHAM AL
222 PM CST THU NOV 20 2008

.DISCUSSION...

A DRY COLD FRONT IS SET TO PUSH THROUGH THE REGION OVERNIGHT TONIGHT
AND INTO FRIDAY MORNING...BRINGING ANOTHER ROUND OF DRY AND COLD AIR
TO THE AREA. MOSS TEMPS FOR FRIDAY MORNING STILL COMING IN AROUND 30
DEGREES...BUT THE BOUNDARY LAYER SHOULD MIX OUT WELL...SO DECIDED TO
GO WITH LOW TO MID 30S. HIGHS ON FRIDAY WILL BE WELL BELOW
AVERAGE...AND LOWS SATURDAY MORNING COULD DIP INTO THE TEENS ACROSS
THE NORTH. DEW POINTS WILL DROP OFF SIGNIFICANTLY BEHIND THIS
FRONT...CREATING A POSSIBLE FIRE DANGER SATURDAY AFTERNOON.

THE MODELS ARE SHOWING ANOTHER COLD FRONT MOVING THROUGH ON MONDAY
AND EXITING THE AREA BY MIDNIGHT TUESDAY NIGHT. RETURN FLOW WILL SET
UP ON MONDAY OUT AHEAD OF THE FRONT BRINGING A SURGE OF MOISTURE
INTO CENTRAL ALABAMA. THIS WILL BE THE FIRST SHOT AT RAIN THE STATE
HAS SEEN IN SEVERAL DAYS.

SKIES WILL BE MOSTLY CLEAR ON TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY WITH
TEMPERATURES SLIGHTLY BELOW NORMAL...AND THANKSGIVING DAY APPEARS TO
BE SHAPING UP NICELY FOR THOSE WHO WILL BE TRAVELING FOR THE
HOLIDAY.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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