Do Squirrels Know How Much Snow Indiana Will Get? Some People Believe So
Winter is unlike any other season in terms of the type of focus it gets from the general public. The main reason is that it's the only season out of the four that gives us a chance of snow. No one seems to care about how much rain we'll get in the Spring, or how hot it will get during the summer (no one that I know of, anyway). But when it comes to snow, many of us seemingly want to know as far in advance as possible, which I completely understand. Snow makes driving difficult and can keep us cooped up in our homes for days if we get enough of it, so we turn to those who study the weather to hopefully give us some idea of how much may fall here in Indiana. However, according to an old wives tale, maybe the answer we're looking for doesn't come from our fellow humans. Maybe all we need to do is look in our backyards.
The Idea That Squirrels Can Predict Snowfall
There are many old wives' tales people use to try and predict how mild or nasty winter will be. Some swear persimmon seeds can give us an indication based on the shape you see inside after you cut it open, while others think the color of a wooly worm will tell us. Both of which I've heard for years. But until recently, I had never heard of using squirrel behavior as an indicator.
"I'm tellin' you, man, it's gonna be a bad one this year! If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'!"
Doc Holiday, from our sister station 100.9 The Eagle in Quincy, Illinois, recently shared a story about a conversation he and his wife had about a squirrel nest in a tree across the street from their house. According to him, his wife, who IS a meteorologist, by the way, commented that they could be in for a nasty winter because the nest was built high in the tree. After a little digging, he found out this has been a belief by some for decades and not something his wife made up on the spot.
I looked into myself and searched "using squirrels to predict snowfall" on Google. The results were page after page of articles referencing the concept, including the Farmer's Almanac which is one of the first publications to release its Winter Outlook each year.
Before I get to what they say, it's important to know that squirrels build their nests in trees for convenience and to protect themselves from predators and the elements. According to the Farmer's Almanac, the belief is that the higher the nest, the more snow we'll get because somehow the squirrel knows it's coming and they don't want their nest to be buried under it.
What the Experts Are Saying Indiana Can Expect This Winter
I haven't personally seen a squirrel nest yet, so I don't know what they think we're going to get in Indiana this winter, but I have seen three different winter outlooks. Two of them seem to think the squirrels might be on to something, while the third doesn't seem to think the squirrels, or us, have much to worry about when it comes to snow. Let's take a look at each, shall we?
Farmer's Almanac 2023-24 Winter Outlook
Let's start with the first outlook released. The Farmer's Almanac published its outlook way back in early August. According to their data, Indiana and most of our neighbors in the Midwest could see "below-average temperatures and lots of snowstorms, sleet, ice, rain" based on its "mathematical and astronomical formula" which it claims is 80 to 85% accurate.
Old Farmer's Almanac 2023-24 Winter Outlook
Roughly six weeks after the Farmer's Almanac released its outlook, the Old Farmer's Almanac gave us what it believes will happen. Dubbed, "Winter Wonderland," the Old Farmer's Almanac also seems to think our snow shovels are going to get quite a bit of use this winter.
Based on their models, Indiana, along with a majority of the country will be dealing with "Cold and Snowy" conditions throughout the winter with the first snows expected to start falling as early as November and continue until the start of spring.
NOAA 2023-24 Winter Outlook
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center (CPC) released its outlook on October 19th and what it believes winter will look like for the Hoosier State is almost the complete opposite of what the two almanacs believe.
For starters, the CPC believes that El Nino will cause temperatures across the majority of the state to be anywhere between 33 and 40% above normal with the exception being the northeastern corner of the state where the probability of that being the case rises to between 40 and 50%.
Obviously, it's hard for any moisture in the air to turn to snow when temperatures are above what they normally would be which is reflected in the CPC's precipitation outlook.
Based on what its models show, the majority of Indiana has a 33 to 40% chance of seeing below-normal precipitation this winter. Exceptions are, again, the northeastern corner which it predicts will see a 40-50% below-normal chance, and the southwestern corner which it believes has the same chance of winter precipitation as it normally does.
It Will Be What It Will Be
Regardless of which outlook you hope will come true, or how high the squirrels are building their homes, it's important to keep in mind that they are all simply predictions. As we know all too well, weather patterns can change in an instant and no amount of fancy technology, atmospheric tracking, or whatever they use to create these forecasts will be 100% accurate. These are all merely the best guesses on what may happen. Granted, they are experts and have been doing this for decades, but it's entirely possible what they think may happen will never come to fruition.
As far as how to prepare for what winter may bring, if you've lived in Indiana long enough, you know your best bet is to be ready for anything at any time.
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Gallery Credit: Anuradha Varanasi