Winter predictions

“A Canadian is someone who worries about winter before summer is even over,” a senior climatologist at Environment Canada said earlier this fall (source). Apparently, that definition extends to Illinois as well. When you live in a place like Canada or Illinois where winter can be a big deal, you try to anticipate what kind of season we’re going to have. Sarah in Illinois is sharing some of her predictions for the upcoming winter.

As the temperatures start falling, our thoughts are turning towards winter and more importantly what kind of weather we are going to have.

Snow? Wind? Or even worse, ice?

Of course there is no way to know for sure. Even the best meteorologists are just making scientific-based guesses. But it feels good to think maybe we can plan ahead, even just a little bit. We do look at our local weatherman’s winter forecast, but we also like to base our predictions off of old wives’ tales. Here are a few that we use at our house.


My brother has a persimmon tree. When the fruit starts falling to the ground we gather a few and take the seeds out. The seeds are very slimy and you have to wipe them off really well because the next step is a little dangerous. We take a very sharp knife or even a razor blade and slice the seed in half. Inside is the little white kernel. If you look closely it will resemble one of three shapes: a spoon, a fork or a knife.

If the shape is a spoon, then you should expect heavy wet snow. If it is the shape of a fork you should expect a milder winter, and if it is in the shape of a knife you can expect lots of sharp wind that cuts right through you. We cut some open at my brother’s house and they looked like spoons to us.

We cut some open when we got home, and it seemed like the knife scraped the kernel away and it was hard to read. But if we really looked hard we thought they looked like spoons. So by that we should prepare for lots of snow.

(In my next post I will share what I did with all of those persimmons.)

Woolly Worms

Another prediction that we have used since we were little is the color of the woolly worms. Woolly worms are usually striped black then brown then black. The more proportion of the worm that is black means the harsher the winter will be. We have seen several different woolly worms so far this fall. I have seen an all light brown woolly worm, and several with more black, then brown, then black but by far we have seen the most all black.

These seem to be crawling everywhere. If you do an internet search you will see some “professionals” that say these are not the worms you use to make your predictions. They say this is a different variety of woolly worm and it doesn’t count. So I guess you can make your own decision on what that prediction means. But to us it means be prepared for snow.

Squirrel Nests

Steve’s favorite predictor has to do with the squirrel nests in the trees. He says that the larger the nest, the colder the winter. I’ll be honest before I met Steve, I never paid attention to the squirrels even made nests in the trees, but now I am always on the lookout.

This prediction is yet to be determined since there are still way too many leaves on the trees and we can’t even see any nests. But I know we will start noticing them in the next few weeks and we will have to see what the squirrels predict.

I am curious, what other old wives’ tales are out there? Do you use anything in nature to predict your winter weather? Have you heard of the methods that we use? What does the winter forecast look like in your area?

So far it sounds like the prediction for Illinois is snow. Honestly, I like a snowy winter. I could do without some of the frigid temperatures we’ve had over the past few years. I’ve heard of the woolly bear (worm) method before, but never persimmons. You have me curious how you used all of those fruits.

3 thoughts on “Winter predictions

  1. Interesting post! Neat to see these traditions. Growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, the upcoming winter was a source of interest to us as well. However the only ways I recall us using to predict the severity of the winter were the thickness of our dogs’ coats and how early the first frost and snow came. I also remember that a haze around the moon was a sure sign of heavy snow or a cold snap to come.
    Here in Victoria, we are closer to more animal behaviors, such as the squirrels with their flurries of activity in the fall and the birds’ timing of their migratory journeys. This is interesting to me, but seems less important as far as predicting goes because winters here are about rain, more rain, and miserable, horizontal wind-and-rain. I don’t enjoy even thinking about it, let alone predicting it!

  2. Jan, that is interesting about the dog’s coats. Since I have always had German Shepherds and they always have a pretty thick coat, I have never paid attention to one year being thicker than another.

    We had a very bold ring around our moon the night before last. It was so strange that Steve called me outside to look at it. It was very bright and had an orange tint to it. I had never seen one like it. I have always heard, “ring around the moon, rain coming soon”. But we haven’t had any rain. We are supposed to get a cold snap this weekend. I wonder how far ahead of time that prediction is supposed to speak of?

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