Hello Fellow Readers, For the last three years, we’ve shared winter weather predictions based on our local expert – the Eastern Pennsylvania Weather Authority (EPAWA), which also serves Northern New Jersey. In reviewing last year’s predictions, let’s say their lengthy disclaimer about the Active Track and Battle Zones may explain why last year’s predictions missed the mark. Other than the one big dump we had in January, we had a mild and snowless winter. What about the folklore of the woolly bear caterpillar predicting winter?
The folklore of the woolly bear caterpillar
You’ve heard the winter lore of the woolly bear caterpillar; the wider their middle brown section, the milder the coming winter. I love photographing woollies along the road in late summer and early fall during Ellie walks. Last year’s picture of Mr. Woolly Bear in The Press had a narrow brown band, meaning a harsher winter. It seems last year’s woolly didn’t know about the disclaimer. This year’s fuzzy wuzzies are quite the assortment. A few with narrow brown bands (harsh winter), one all-brown (no winter?), and even an all-blonde anomaly was found crossing the road.
Versus a weather authority’s mumbo-jumbo
The EPAWA provides detailed technical information using acronyms, complicated graphs, and squiggly maps. Thankfully they boil things down to laymen’s terms. They predict winter (in 2016-17) will start earlier than last and be much colder, which isn’t hard to imagine given the previous year’s warm temps. They say the average temperatures will only be slightly below normal. There will be more frequent storms with many “Lake Effect snow episodes and fast-moving clipper systems” likely. And, there’s a greater chance for blocking this year, which means storm events could last longer. However, a milder period with “colder shots with snow still possible” is expected in late February or March.
Overall, the EPAWA predicts our area to receive twenty to forty percent above average snowfall this winter. Yeah, baby, Frosty is coming to town! Then comes their disclaimer with six lengthy bullet points of “What can go wrong?” In their weather predictions, they use acronyms such as QBO (Quasi-Biennial Oscillation), PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation), and AO (Arctic Oscillation), which are hard to decipher. Much like the all-blonde anomaly woolly bear on the side of the road.
Then there’s The Farmers’ Almanac calling for an exceptionally cold and snow-filled winter. Based on the dry growing season we’ve had, it seems logical that we’ll make up for the lacking precipitation during winter. So, I vote for the narrowest brown-banded woolly bear to become Best of Show.
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Woolly Bear Folklore: The narrower the brown band, the harsher the winter. It looks like these boys are forecasting a harsh winter!