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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Lex great website for weather photography

techniques
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Last song......i played this to my son on the way to a Bucs game when he was 10 years old.....i had the sun roof open on the Caddy and cranked up the Bose system and told him to close his eyes and push the seat back.....LOL...he said "Dad that's the most awsome song i have ever heard"

Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
66. Bonedog

The best photos I have seen and from some of the best weather photographers all used the extended exposure technique.

good technique if your equiptment allows.
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 96 Comments: 32002
Quoting Hurricane4Lex:
us)

I know some have done a "noise activated" type of camera


Not for lightning, the light gets to the camera before the sound. You could do a time lapse and maybe get something...easiet way is high res video and then do frame captures to save the stills you want.
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 96 Comments: 32002
63. Hurricane4Lex

most times the photographer leaves the shutter open for extended periods of time (30 sec to 1 min) depending on lighting and other conditions.
Thats why alot of times you have multiple bolts in one frame and, as the example above shows, an overexposure in the most intense light.

Some digital cameras have multiple frame settings that can take up to 10 frames a second. That is another way, when a bolt is noticed by the photographer he hits the shutter button and clicks off multiple frames and usually in one of them is the "shot".

I have heard of a person using a microphone attached to a shutter trigger but dont really know if it was a viable option.

The best photos I have seen and from some of the best weather photographers all used the extended exposure technique.
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Quoting theshepherd:
Streamtracker
From last blog: Thanks for link to Argo Floats.
That answered my last question from yesterday's GW war.
Guess you just can't do better than sticking a thermometer in a bottle for reliability.
Old fashion ways "sometimes" rule.


No problem.

Nice catch there. Is that a snook? If it is that's an above average fish, isn't it?
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"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"

hehe - sounds familiar...weather blogger caterpillars!
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 96 Comments: 32002
It is awesome

anyone here know how to build a camera that's rigged to do that (take a picture like the one Aussie showed us)

I know some have done a "noise activated" type of camera
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still awsome nontheless.

I love weather photography especially lightning shots
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Quoting Bonedog:
awsome picture Aussie

you take it?

I wish... i could of taken sum last night at about 1am when we had a nice storm pass over.
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Wooly Bears? Blinding me with Science LOL

W/L mode
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awsome picture Aussie

you take it?
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52 Tampa
ROFLMAO at the 70's era lefthanded neck on the right handed body. Gotta luv the Fender mentality.
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IT crashed down from the heavens, lighting up the sky.

This picture, captured at Ballina on the Far North Coast, New South Wales, Australia,

Article from: The Daily Telegraph

Cheers AussieStorm
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=)


yea NE just thinking about too. HD and Lowes would be attacked.
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presslord to speak on disaster response and people with disabilities shortly...
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Tampa,
thanks for the Clapton break. Great tune to interject into the morning.
I saw another great guitarist last night, Vince Gill. He has a cold and joked about being unable to hit high notes with his voice, but it was a good show anyway. He didn't wail on the guitar like I have seen him wail before, because it was an acoustic show, but it was still fun. He is a pretty funny guy in addition to being such a talented musician.
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Quoting Hurricane4Lex:
RE 32:

forgot to reread what was already posted earlier

sorry NE

it all makes sense now


not a problem,lex,these things are good for a laugh
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 878 Comments: 15739
Bone this is for you.......LMAO

Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
8,037.18 +39.90 (+0.50%)

now its up

LOL
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Quoting Bonedog:
LOL just reading the local met office forecast discussions. All are talking about next weeks storm but all add the wording trending warmer. Yet every model run I can find shows us on the cold side. I guess they dont want to get the panic mode up and running yet.

You know first snow of the year would through my area into chaos as it usually does.


Yeh, and start the stampede for the shovels and snowblowers
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 878 Comments: 15739
RE 32:

forgot to reread what was already posted earlier

sorry NE

it all makes sense now
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41 keith
Already have it. Twin CD's. Some good stuff there, but a lot of showey stuff also. Everybody trying to outdo the last set.I much prefer studio work as a whole.
My bud down in Lauderdale has a super computer his nerd son built for him. A total pirate machine. He's given me stuff that will "unfortunately" not surface. Goes right over the average "modern" listner's head.
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LOL Rob
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LOL just reading the local met office forecast discussions. All are talking about next weeks storm but all add the wording trending warmer. Yet every model run I can find shows us on the cold side. I guess they dont want to get the panic mode up and running yet.

You know first snow of the year would through my area into chaos as it usually does.
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P.S.

Tim, Please pass Bone the meds...LOL
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 96 Comments: 32002
You guys are really bringing back the memories...can't tell you the hours I spent disecting his riffs when I was learning to play guitar. Slowhand has always been one of my top 3 guitarist. The others on the list might change but he's always there, and That song in particular brings back a lot of stuff...was always a great way to end a date night before heading home...
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 96 Comments: 32002
38 Tampa
In an abstract kind of way, they have heard his licks and melodies.
I can hear them woven into some of the modern stuff.
I've always wished Bonnie Raitt would give her rendition of Wonderful Tonight. Her slide work stands alone in my book.
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all fixed =)
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Quoting theshepherd:
20 Tampa
He's the man. Have 22 of his albums.
No spouse since 75, but my old Strat thumps that one out to the frogs,coyotes and hoot owls on ocassion.
Have "Wonderfull Tonight" in several versions.
His 24 Nights album performed before the Queen, by far is my favorite version.
If you haven't seen it alredy shepard, check his Crossroads Concert in Chicago last year on video. Probably the best group of Guitar players ever assembled in one place.
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Bone all your AAAA in post 22 has streched the blog......lol
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37. sporteguy03

if there is we are screwed
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Quoting theshepherd:
20 Tampa
He's the man. Have 22 of his albums.
No spouse since 75, but my old Strat thumps that one out to the frogs,coyotes and hoot owls on ocassion.
Have "Wonderfull Tonight" in several versions.
His 24 Nights album performed before the Queen, by far is my favorite version.


Sad that most people under 25 probably has never listened to this type of music little lonely Clapton. He is one of my all time favorites as well.
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Dr.Masters is there any correlation to the economy and weather as far as predictors?
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33. TampaSpin

LOL your right ;)
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20 Tampa
He's the man. Have 22 of his albums.
No spouse since 75, but my old Strat thumps that one out to the frogs,coyotes and hoot owls on ocassion.
Have "Wonderfull Tonight" in several versions.
His 24 Nights album performed before the Queen, by far is my favorite version.
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here's a bit of good news

Link

Breaking news oil has dipped to $50/barrel
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Quoting Bonedog:
glad everyone got the comedy =) I thought it might get lost in translation.


Bone we all know you need a shrink just like the rest of the 99% of us in here.....LOL
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Quoting Hurricane4Lex:
RE 20:

then again

Link

uh oh

RE 21:

what does meteors have to do with winter?

unless, is clear skies the reason behind seeing more meteors NE?


Ok,Lex,your first mistake is trying to make logic out of these myths,somehow people in the past associated lots of meteors with more snowfall.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 878 Comments: 15739
glad everyone got the comedy =) I thought it might get lost in translation.
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GM Tampa,thanks for the Eric Clapton video,he's at the top of my list
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 878 Comments: 15739
Tampa I have noticed that storm. Earlier this week the ECM was the only one showing it now the GFS has it. This might be the first "storm" of the season. We have the cold air in place very well, the grounds are frozen now so what falls will stick. Plus if it takes the shape that the models are showing it will be a nasty one. Might screw up alot of travel plans for folks.

Still have time to watch the trends though BUT it doesn't appear good anymore.
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Quoting Bonedog:
as you can tell the last post was PURELY comical and for everyones enjoyment and laughter


LOL

don't forget that in 2012 we'll defy the laws of physics to the point where everything will be nothing!

LOL
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Quoting Bonedog:
as you can tell the last post was PURELY comical and for everyones enjoyment and laughter


Bone i was about to call 911 for ya.....problem was they would have not know where to take you too......lmao
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
I hope everyone has seen the models for next weekend.....as it appears a massive winter Storm will hit the SE Northward with some major travel problems coming over the holiday weekend....look at this loop and look at days 8-10

Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
RE 20:

then again

Link

uh oh

RE 21:

what does meteors have to do with winter?

unless, is clear skies the reason behind seeing more meteors NE?
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as you can tell the last post was PURELY comical and for everyones enjoyment and laughter
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I say the world is headed twords Mad Max era!

Time to start storing the guns and ammo, rigging the cars with gernade launchers, and start hording the fuel.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

The sky is faling
The Sky is falling
the sky IS falling

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Cat 12 hurricanes
Cat 20 Tornados
Fire and Brimestone
Salt Pillars
Wildfires

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Mayan 2012

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA


************************************************

ok now that I cleared my head back to the regularly schedualed blogging =)

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Signs of a long, severe winter

* Unusually warm temperatures in the first week of August

* Thick fog in August

* Cranes appear in early autumn

* Blooms of a dogwood tree are full

* Many meteors during the summer

* Tough apple skins in autumn

* Corn husks are thicker and stronger

* Acorns litter the ground on Sept. 29

* Hornets build their nests low to the ground

* Leaves wither and stay on the branches in October

* Berries are plentiful in the wild

* Birds migrate earlier than usual

* Flowers still in bloom late in autumn

* Thunder during Christmas week
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 878 Comments: 15739
Quoting Hurricane4Lex:


Here we go again!

who knows maybe they'll pull out of the bottom like they did last week (the 900 point swing we saw)


Im starting to believe it will reach below 6000 before it bottoms out....just being a realist....I think everyone should sing this to their spouses tonite before bed.

Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439

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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.