WOOLY WORMS & FOGS: What mother nature is saying about our upcoming winter

Published: Nov. 18, 2019 at 2:30 PM CST
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You've probably heard the old wives' tale about the color of woolly bear caterpillars and how they may predict the upcoming winter season.

Folklore says, the more black on the caterpillar, the harsher the winter. More brown than black would translate to a more mild winter with less snow.

KY3 Meteorologist Abby Dyer asked viewers from around the Ozarks to send in their photos of caterpillars they've seen this fall, and the worms were not in agreement. We had photos of brown ones, black ones, white ones and everything in between with no consistency even from the same town. In fact, three completely different looking caterpillars were all found the same day in Everton. This makes the winter perdition especially hairy.

One issue with caterpillar forecasting is that most of these caterpillar images that were sent in are not true woolly bear caterpillars. There are several different species of hairy caterpillars that turn into different months in the warm months. A true woolly bear caterpillar will eventually become the Isabella tiger moth (Pyrrharctia Isabella) and it emerges in the spring. You can recognize these moths by their yellowy-orange coloration, black legs, and small black spots on their wings and thorax. ifferent species and not a true wooly bear caterpillar. So if you find an all-black caterpillar, don't worry –this doesn't mean that we're in for a severe, endless winter, it is likely just a different species of caterpillar! The same is true for all-white woolly bears, and all brown caterpillars.

Another cue from mother nature that people pay attention to are the number of foggy days in August. There is an old saying that goes "For every fog in august…it will mean a day with snow this upcoming winter."

Fog is a very common occurrence around here. The Ozarks has lakes, mountains and valleys which can all aid in fog development and we have may nights where radiational cooling is possible. Many people count the number of foggy days we have in August and use that as a first guess at how many snows we will have this upcoming winter.

To test this theory, I went back and looked at the weather log from this August. There were 14 days that we recorded fog at the Springfield airport.

So does this mean 14 snow events for the upcoming winter? Here is where the number crunching madness begins… KY3 Meteorologist Abby Dyer looked up the data for the last three years. In 2016, there were 13 foggy days recorded in August, with 10 snow events that winter. Pretty close! But in 2017, we had 17 foggy August days and only 4 snows. 2018's August had 15 fog reports and we had 8 snow events all winter long. So what does that mean for 2019?

The only correlation is there are LESS snow day reports than fog reports in the months of August. But "Less than 14 snow days" doesn't really tell us a whole lot about the upcoming winter forecast.

What does this mean? That there is no defined relationship between fog during one month and snow in the following season. And that folklore is just that…folklore.