Earth Gauge Tip of the Week — Four Faunal Forecasters

| 1/28/2013 2:08:58 PM


Move over, Punxsutawney Phil. Groundhogs aren't the only animals who are known to "predict" the weather. Phil may be the most famous, but he's certainly not the most accurate. Here are four animals that are known for their weather wisdom. Some of these proverbs are true, while others are not. Can you guess which ones are real?    

Fact or Fiction? The width of a Woolly Bear Caterpillar's orange stripe can predict how mild the winter will be. 

caterpillarFiction! According to an old proverb, if the width of a Woolly Bear Caterpillar's reddish-brown stripe is wider than usual, the coming winter will be mild. Conversely, a narrower stripe means the coming winter will be harsh. While some scientific evidence suggests that this may be related to the previous winter's severity, there's no correlation between the stripe's width and the following winter's severity.

This proverb gained traction in the 1950s when the insect curator of New York's American Museum of Natural History spent an afternoon measuring the width of several Woolly Bear Caterpillars. For fun, he used the information to make a prediction about the coming winter and forwarded it to a friend who reported for the The New York Herald Tribune. When a relatively mild winter ensued, the resulting publicity solidified this folklore in American culture. He collected data and made predictions from 1948-1956 that roughly held up, but his sample sizes were never large enough to scientifically prove this relationship. The folktale stuck, however, and Woolly Bear Caterpillar events are still held around the country each fall.

Download photo (Wikimedia Commons author IronChris). 

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