Will the leaves on trees decide what winter brings?

Winter weather lore forecast for WNY
Posted at 7:31 PM, Oct 18, 2020

Ever hear, when spiders enter your home early in the fall, a bad winter is to come? This is something called weather lore, it's folklore pertaining to weather and I found a lot of them!

Let's start with the leaves on the trees. Weather lore says,
When leaves fall early, fall and winter will be mild.
When leaves fall late, winter will be wild.
If leaves are withering on their branches in October it's said that an extra cold winter is in store.

What’s happening this year? I got the answer from Erie county Supervising Park Ranger, Ranger Chuck. He tells me, the leaves are right on par for what he would expect. This means it’s not too early and not too late and that means our winter according to weather lore would be normal.

An interesting side bar from Ranger Chuck in regards to the color of the leaves and why people might think they are lasting longer on the trees than normal.
Here is his statement:

#1 without a doubt is the shortening length of daylight
- The speed of the change is currently pretty rapid (Sun is rising about 1 minute later e and setting about 2 minutes earlier each day - a net loss of about 2-3 minutes per day). The shorter day length causes the tree to start sealing off its leaves preventing nutrients from entering.
- The natural progression is green (chlorophyll) -> yellow -> Oranges/Red -> deep reds -> brown (tannins) with a different combination of pigments present and sugars in the leaf.
* Each species of tree tends to have its own modification of this process.
#2 Moist growing seasons, especially during leaf growth
- Prevents the trees from shutting down their leaves prematurely in an effort to conserve nutrients & water.
#3 Cool nights and sunny days
- We have had a lot of these lately. The change is actually caused by the breakdown of chlorophyll in the leaves. Sunny days help to speed this up allowing the other pigments present to shine through.
#4 Calm days
- Prevent leaves from blowing off trees early increasing the time we have to view them.
This year we seem to have a good combination of "cool nights/sunny days" and calm days, allowing the leaves a chance to change and stay on the trees long enough to change. The cool nights/sunny days part is why it seems the leaves changed rapidly this year and the lack of wind has allowed them to stay on the trees long enough for them to fully change before being blown off. This is why this year's season has seemed so long.

Now onto apples:
The tougher the apple skin, the rougher winter will be.

I spoke to an expert, Bob Brown, a grower in Niagara county. He says the apples this year did have a thicker skin, lead to a crisp apple with lots of pressure inside, this is great for apples, not so much for our outlook with weather lore pointing to a rougher winter ahead.

How about onion skin!
The thicker the skin the rougher the winter.

I’ve been told they haven’t been any different from normal, which would take the rough winter off the table.

How about spiders entering the home or larger than normal spider webs?
The sayings go, "spiders spinning larger webs, cold winter to come" "spiders entering the house, snowy winter to come"

Of course this isn't a scientific piece and spiders will try to get into warmer places as the weather turns colder in the fall however, I've seen many more then ever before ! This would lead to a snowy winter ahead.

What about this one “Mushrooms galore, much snow in store” “no mushrooms at all, no snow will fall"

Dare I say we found LOTS of mushrooms, everywhere this fall from the backyard to the parks. This would tick one in the snowy box for this winter.

Here’s one we can quantify: :For every Fog in August, there will be a snowfall the following winter"

After looking at our data for August 2020, we had seven days of fog. According to weather lore this means we’ll have seven snowstorms or “snowfalls” this year. This may be open for interpretation, such as a snow storm may last for a few days, so that could mean it was one snowfall. Or to localize it a bit more, maybe seven lake effect events may occur? This one we'll have to keep an eye on!

This next one, I talked to several farmers and not one of them have heard of this!
"Corn husks thicker and tighter than usual leads to a cold winter"

I did find out if it pertained to corn it would be field corn and not sweet corn. Field corn is more susceptible to the elements and might be the reason weather lore looked to it and it's still around later in the fall season. I spoke to Dave Phillips, a dairy farmer who feeds over a 1000 cows and never heard this weather lore and never thought to look at the husks of the corn….He even asked his 86 year old father and he never heard of this one either. I have to say this one doesn't have an outcome.

To sum it up, this year will be normal and mild but rough but with above average snowfall with seven snow storms!

Have you heard other weather lore? Send them to me on Facebook and Twitter or you could always email me at

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