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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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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While in Texas 12 Days Post Ike ..Down in Lower Chambers County in the Rural areas,Like Double Bayou and Anahuac,I was still amazed to see that surge Plow 6 Miles inland.
Was really some grim footage of a all too familiar scene.
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168. beell
157.
Rough approximation?
At least for the Texas coast,
15'/4.6m on the surge.
110mph/95 knots on the wind.
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Lake Pontchartrain is still warm enough to keep the South Shore above freezing.
But as that Lake cools faster,the warming will decrease and ,well..were getting colder S Shore morning Temps already.

Tonight
Partly cloudy. Lows in the lower 40s. North winds 10 to 20 mph with higher gusts.
sunny
Friday
Sunny in the morning then becoming partly cloudy. Cooler. Highs in the upper 50s. Northeast winds 10 to 20 mph with higher gusts.
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166. IKE
Quoting captainhunter:
158. IKE

I don't know about you Ike but I'm about sick of the cold already and it's not even winter yet. Tomorrow looks to be a cold, raw and windy day here in PCB.


I don't miss the humidity, but...yeah, after awhile spring and warmer weather sounds nice.
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Although it was freezing (relatively speaking) last night. ;)
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159 - IKE

I feel for ya. My forecast for the next 5 days... sunny, mid to upper 70s for highs and 60 for lows. :)
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163. IKE
Quoting Patrap:
These Dry re-enforcing Fronts are showing a Pattern usually seen about 4 weeks later IKE.
Really chilling down again tonight here and tomorrow and another front this weekend.

Long John weather.



Agree...and the pattern appears to continue to hold....long-term from Tallahassee,FL....

LONG TERM...
(SUNDAY NIGHT THROUGH THURSDAY) STILL NO END IN SIGHT TO THE
CURRENT LARGE SCALE WESTERN RIDGE/EASTERN TROUGH CONFIGURATION.
A BRIEF WARM UP SUNDAY AND MONDAY WILL BE FOLLOWED BY ANOTHER
COLD FRONTAL PASSAGE MONDAY NIGHT INTO TUESDAY. GUIDANCE SLOWLY
BACKING OFF ON PRECIP CHANCES WITH THIS FRONT...BUT WILL KEEP 20
PERCENT IN FOR NOW. COOL HIGH PRESSURE WILL BUILD IN ONCE AGAIN
BEHIND THIS FRONT.
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Seems like Dr Masters had Ike around 5.6 on the IKE scale and Katrina 5.2.
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10030
158. IKE

I don't know about you Ike but I'm about sick of the cold already and it's not even winter yet. Tomorrow looks to be a cold, raw and windy day here in PCB.
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These Dry re-enforcing Fronts are showing a Pattern usually seen about 4 weeks later IKE.
Really chilling down again tonight here and tomorrow and another front this weekend.

Long John weather.

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159. IKE
Here's my forecast for tomorrow night...inland Florida panhandle....


Friday Night
Clear and cold with near record low temperatures. Lows 20 to 25 inland...around 32 at the coast. Northeast winds 5 mph or less.
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158. IKE
Quoting Patrap:
When it "Rains"..the "Song Remains the Same"....,too.Link

...Sup,Ike


Enjoying a 70 degree afternoon before winter returns starting tonight with another Alberta clipper.
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Quoting beell:
So where would Ike fit in that scale Pat?



Would have to Pull up the IKE NOAA specific's on Him..but I class these Late Season Cape Verde Systems a lil different than the SS scale already myself,and lean more to the Surge Potential as a whole for these GOM CV Large Canes.
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Final
7,557.70 -439.58 (-5.50%)
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155. beell
So where would Ike fit in that scale Pat?
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Let's hope we don't repeat the mistakes of the past.

Link
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Quoting RobDaHood:
Any of you dog lovers out there that want a quick giggle check the pic and post on my blog

hope you enjoy.


LMAO.
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I think we all know where the uncertainty is coming from.
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10030
When it "Rains"..the "Song Remains the Same"....,too.Link

...Sup,Ike
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150. IKE
Quoting Patrap:
Are we a Brokerage Firm now on wu?

LOL


Just a bad economy right now. It's wearing and tearing on folks.
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I invested in Fire to Keep the Hoards of Marauders off when the Crash comes IKE.


Fire iz Cheap and easy to Buy.

Wink,wink..

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Are we a Brokerage Firm now on wu?

LOL
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147. IKE
Will there be anything left?

DOW
423.65
-5.30%
7,573.63
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here's an opinion from WSJ


Link


the market today is doing a last minute drop

7,576.74 -420.54 (-5.26%)
(posted at 3:45)
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145. IKE
Quoting Hurricane4Lex:


that's the upside to all of this


Agree...it's helped me in my sales job. It's probably saved me between $150-$200 a month!
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129 - Orca - Knew you were a risky kind of guy. I showed that to my wife years ago and she instantly turned it around and said, now see honey(remember that phrase guys, you are about to be conned into something), I have a cat, wouldn't you like to have a little adoring buddy all to yourself? She gave me a dog for Christmas, poor dog had no brain at all, but it was cute.
Member Since: September 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 19510
TROPICAL CYCLONE TROPICAL CYCLONE DESTRUCTIVE POTENTIAL ...

..insured losses do not necessarily scale with hurricane. intensity. For example, the south Florida ... advantages, limitations, and new applications for the...

PDF: Link
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Quoting IKE:
Look at a barrel of crude oil....OIL
4.68
-8.65%
$49.42


I filled up my car today at $1.95.9 per gallon and it only cost me $10 dollars!


that's the upside to all of this
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141. IKE
Economy is just continuing to bomb.

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Quoting Thundercloud01221991:
Dow Jones down over 280 points


now its

7,654.47 -342.81 (-4.29%)


ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
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139. IKE
Look at a barrel of crude oil....OIL
4.68
-8.65%
$49.42


I filled up my car today at $1.95.9 per gallon and it only cost me $10 dollars!
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FEWW New Hurricane Scale Makes Hurricane Classification More Meaningful!
Story: Link

FEWW New Hurricane Scale is based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale and provides a more detailed definition of hurricane forces.

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Dow Jones down over 280 points
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Watch Portlight to see SJ eat 16 burgers straight. :D
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GOES WV Loop of the Tropical Basin Link

GOES-12 WV Loop w/Dry-Air Shaded Link
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130 - Rob - LOL, after being married for 37 years, trust me, I fear nothing, I did however buy her a Remington Police Magnum 12 gauge shotgun for Christmas a few years back, I am a very well behaved husband!!
Member Since: September 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 19510
122
Yep, and if the model proves true throughout, it looks like the jet streak on the west side of the ridge still remaing over the Pacific could drive south and bring a suprise for SoCal the following days.
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10030
www.poboyfest.com Link

The 2008 New Orleans Po-Boy Preservation Festival will feature:

* live music on two stages
* over 60 of New Orleans' best-known artists offering unique artwork
* family-friendly events such as a childrens section with games and prizes, po-boy photo booth, silent auction, and panel discussions covering the history of the po-boy (starting at 11:00 a.m.)
* and, of course, the best tasting po-boys in New Orleans


Volunteers Needed

Help get NOLA fired up at the 2008 Po-Boy Fest! Sign up now to volunteer at the festival Link
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I'm back and..........


Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh



7,762.40 -234.88 (-2.94%)
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128. RTLSNK

Okay, send her the link saying it a cute puppy picture and let her blame me....
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 93 Comments: 30631
Quoting RTLSNK:
123 - Orca - LOL - Your wife or mine?


OK, I mailed it anyway :)
Now it will probably end up at half the Gov Employees in town when she is finished.
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127 - Rob - Oh sure, give us all bad ideas and then run and hide! hahaha
Member Since: September 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 19510
LOL gotta get back to work!

see you folks later.
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 93 Comments: 30631
123 - Orca - LOL - Your wife or mine?
Member Since: September 3, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 19510
123
Check the cycle first.
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10030
Quoting weatherbro:
Looks like the east is gonna have a cold thanksgiving as an arctic ridge builds down to Florida(and a powerful Noreaster slams into the mid Atlantic and northeast with snow as far south as Georgia). First I thought it was a GFS glitch. But now it appears other models are starting to jump into the bandwagon.


Your not making me feel good about this,they were leaning toward rain,but now trending colder,but still early,this time of year with the waters still relatively warm,track is ultra important
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Quoting RTLSNK:
106 - Rob - ROFLMAO


Hmm wonder is its worth the grief to email that to the wife at work :)
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Looks like the east is gonna have a cold thanksgiving as an arctic ridge builds down to Florida(and a powerful Noreaster slams into the mid Atlantic and northeast with snow as far south as Georgia). First I thought it was a GFS glitch. But now it appears other models are starting to jump into the bandwagon.
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Complete Blog Refresh
Mirror Site (New Format)
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Quoting Seastep:
Sorry, couldn't resist... it had just popped up as a headline on Drudge.

You're gonna get a spankin' from "you know who"
;>)
Member Since: September 11, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 10030

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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.