“A mild winter will be enjoyed by those here in Rutherford County and Middle Tennessee,” said Dewayne Trail in his annual Winter Weather Folklore Forecast on WGNS.
According to folklore, if the woolly worms are abundant, slow-moving, have thicker coats and black bands are wider than the central rust colored band, the winter will be bad.
Trail, official woolly worm interpreter, the low number of woolly worms and their lack of a heavy coat mean a mild winter.
“Most of those seen have not had thick hair coats, and their black bands have been no wider than the rust-orange band separating the black bands,” Trail explained.
The woolly worms aren’t the only ones predicting a mild winter.
The National Weather Service is also anticipating a warmer and wetter winter.
“Officially the National Weather Service is predicting a wetter than average winter with milder than normal temperatures. This doesn’t mean there won’t be some cold days this winter as there certainly will be,” NWS Meteorolgist Bobby Boyd said.
But looking at it month-by-month, Boyd thinks November and December will be drier than normal and January through March will be wetter than normal.
“With this type of pattern we may be looking at more ice than snow here in Tennessee especially with the coldest air remaining to our north across the Midwest and Great Lakes regions. Often times with this type of pattern we see significant risk for severe weather and flood events during February and March,” he explained.
If the caterpillars and scientists aren’t enough, Trail pointed to other indicators, which include an early killing frost, the number of August fogs, the amount of mast – nuts and berries – on trees and shrubs, the thickness of corn husks and even spiders.
For this year, Trail’s observations showed few fogs in August and fewer berries, along with the woolly worm’s reddish color and low population.
Winter’s wild card
The scientific reason behind this year’s mild winter predictions is a La Niña brewing in the Pacific Ocean, Boyd explained.
La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific, as compared to El Niño, which is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.
“This generally means above normal temperatures for the winter across the Southern Plains and Gulf Coastal states with Tennessee being on the northern fringe of the milder temperature pattern,” he said.
But there are other factors that can throw a wrench into winter predictions in Tennessee, like Arctic Oscillation, which is an outbreak of cold arctic air that cycles throughout the winter and can only be predicted for about two weeks at most.
He said the only thing definite about Arctic Oscillation is that it occurs. It’s the when and how long that is hard to predict.
“So the Arctic Oscillation is just one of the overriding factors that comes into play over the winter months and can make a big difference in our weather here in Tennessee,” Boyd added.
More matter what science, corn husks or spiders have to tell us, Trail puts his money on the woolly worm.
“Based on the banded woolly worm as a lore weather predictor, this winter will bring closer to normal temperatures and milder weather compared to what was experienced last year,” he said.
Additional Weather Lore Predictions
• Count the number of cricket chirps in a 14-second period and add 40; the resulting number will be within one degree of the actual air temperature.
• Weather during the first 12 days after Christmas indicate what the weather will be like during each of the 12 months during the coming year.
• Cows and deer stand facing west if bad weather is approaching; east when weather is good.
• The louder the katydids sing in August, the bigger the blizzards in December. Three months after the first katydid begins to sing, the first killing frost will come.