Is it Possible for a Woolly Bear Caterpillar From Brookfield to Predict Winter?
About a month ago NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released their winter prediction for the Northeast, but should we rely more on a Woolly Bear Caterpillar to predict the forecast for winter?
Over the Thanksgiving Holiday, my wife and I were walking on the Greenway in Brookfield, and we came across a Woolly Caterpillar who was crossing the path. My wife mentioned that this particular Caterpillar had a reputation of being able to forecast the coming winter weather, you just have to know how to read the worm. So I did a little research, and here's what I found out:
According to the National Weather Service, who must also employ the Woolly Bear for its seasonal prognostication, the caterpillar has 13 distinct body segments of either rusty brown or black. If you believe in the folklore of the insect, those 13 segments correspond to the 13 weeks of winter. The wider the rusty brown sections (or the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. The more black there is, the more severe the winter. The longer the woolly bear's black bands, the longer, colder, snowier, and more severe the winter will be. On the other hand, the wider the middle brown band supposedly means a milder winter is expected.
Now it gets even more complicated. Apparently, the position of the longest dark bands indicates which part of winter will be coldest or hardest. If the Caterpillar's head end is dark, then the start of winter will be severe, and if it's dark at the tail end, then the end of winter will be colder.
So if we look at the picture above that I took of this Woolly Caterpillar, it would seem there's a lot of brown, which would indicate a milder winter, however the head contains more bands of black than the tail-end. According to legend, this would mean that the start of winter will be colder than the end of winter.
If you believe this sort of thing, then it looks like the Woolly Caterpillar, at least this particular one found in Brookfield, is predicting a mild winter with a rough start, and warmer finish, and that pretty much corresponds with what the National Weather Service is predicting with above average temperatures as La Niña climate conditions have emerged for the second winter in a row, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. So what does that all mean for us, it means the Northeast snowstorms and blizzards tend to be less common during La Niña winters. So I guess it was a good idea to look to the Woolly Caterpillar, it seems to be right on the pulse of what lies ahead for us weather wise this coming winter.