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GRANDMA SAYS: Wondering about winter weather

Many of you have noticed an abundance of pinecones this fall.  These little marvels of nature helped Grandma predict the weather for the coming winter. Look around and let me know what you see in your area.
Many of you have noticed an abundance of pinecones this fall. These little marvels of nature helped Grandma predict the weather for the coming winter. Look around and let me know what you see in your area. - contributed

The blizzard that pounded central Labrador yesterday was close, for some too close.   

Are we next? Will it be a bad winter?    

David Lacey recently wrote in with this observation and question about the upcoming season.  

“I’m curious about spruce cones. A few years ago, there was an exceptionally heavy burst of cones and that was followed by a rough winter in our region. The last two years the cones have been very light and last winter was mild. Is the number of cones any indicator of the type of winter we can expect? Thanks.”  

I guess that depends on who you ask, David. Our ancestors believed any tree that produces fruit or nuts could give you a glimpse into the severity of the upcoming season. Grandma would tell you that an abundance of pinecones, apples or berries points to a harsh, snowy winter.    

While we’re on the topic of pinecones, did you know that they have traditionally been used to forecast short-term weather too? They change shape according to the amount of humidity in the air. In dry weather, pinecones fan out as the scales shrivel and stand out stiffly. Grandma used to say if the cones were open, it was going to be nice the next day.  

When it’s damp, the scales absorb moisture, become flexible again and the cone returns to its normal shape. If the cone was tightly closed, there was rain or snow on the way.  

By the way, you can check out the theory by putting a pinecone on a baking sheet in the oven; the hot oven will dry out the cone and the scales will open. But remember, the cone is not reacting to the temperature change but the change in humidity. The oven is drying out your pinecone.    

My godmother used to make beautiful Christmas centrepieces with pinecones that she would collect on late fall strolls. I remember sitting on the floor in front of the oven window watching as the tightly closed cones bloomed. Lovely memories of a simpler time back on the farm.   


Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network

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