12 signs that a hard winter is coming

snowy owl
© Jim Cumming

Historically we've looked to nature to help forecast the weather; here are some indicators gleaned from generations of folk wisdom.

In 1978, the Farmers' Almanac published a list of 20 signs that suggest a harsh winter is in the works. Compiled by meteorologist Dick Goddard, they are charming for sure. Holding the Guiness World Record for the longest career as a weather forecaster (51 years 6 days), Goddard knows a thing or two about weather. And weather folklore as well, apparently.

While these days we rely on all kinds of technical wizardry for our weather prognostications, the entirity of history before us looked at the natural world to get a sense of what was to come.

Following are 12 of the 20 signs, all of which The Almanac notes are still relevant today. I can't say whether all of these have any science to back them up, but they certainly have generations of folk wisdom to do so. Some of them seem valid as indicators of an early winter – but as for severity, well, we shall see. I know that I'll still be looking at the weather reports, but don't be surprised if you see me considering a parade of ants as well. Animals have a good sense about these things; who are we not to listen to them?

1. Woodpeckers sharing a tree.
2. The early arrival of the snowy owl.
3. The early departure of geese and ducks
4. Heavy and numerous fogs during August.
5. The early arrival of crickets on the hearth.
6. Pigs gathering sticks.
7. Ants marching in a line rather than meandering.
8. Early seclusion of bees within the hive.
9. Unusual abundance of acorns.
10. A high hornet's nest to indicate snow level
11. Extra fuzzy woolly bear caterpillars are said to mean that winter will be very cold.
12. Squirrels gathering nuts early.

Are there signs you rely on that indicate a rough winter ahead? Let us know in the comments. And you can see the rest of the signs at the Farmers Almanac.

12 signs that a hard winter is coming
Historically we've looked to nature to help forecast the weather; here are some indicators gleaned from generations of folk wisdom.

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