Persimmons and El Nino Give Us An Early Look At Winter

Up until this week, it’s felt more like summer than fall for the past month. In fact, Huntsville was about 10°F above average for the first two weeks of October. That made the drop into the 60s for highs this week feel even more dramatic than it otherwise would have! With a chill in the air as a reminder that the seasons are still changing, now is a good time to take a peak ahead at winter.

Persimmon Seeds: One of the most popular weather-lore tales involves predicting the upcoming winter with persimmon seeds. Supposedly the shape of the root, which is made of the white fibers on the inside of the seed, can tell us how cold and snowy the next several months could be. A spoon shape means you’ll be digging out of a snowy winter, a knife shape means the brutal cold will be cutting right through you all winter, and a fork shape means a mild winter season ahead.

Perssimon Seed Showing A Spoon Shaped Root (Image: Andrew Self)

The seeds we’ve seen so far this year have been spoon shaped, which might have you excited if you love snow! Just remember: there is no scientific basis to this. For an example of how reliable the persimmons are, we can look at last year’s seed prediction. Last year we also saw a lot of spoon shaped roots, but the total season’s snowfall accumulation only reached .4″ in Huntsville. That’s well below Huntsville’s average of 3 inches.

Winter Outlook: Persimmon seeds can be a fun way of looking forward to winter, but we’ll need to look at far more to see what winter could actual have in store for us. This early, your best bet is to keep an eye on global patterns and oscillations, like the El Nino Southern Oscillation (or ENSO).

ENSO refers to the sea surface temperatures of the Central Pacific. When they’re warmer than average, it’s considered an El Nino phase; when they’re cooler than average it’s considered a La Nina phase. During El Nino, the warmer ocean waters can impact the United State’s weather patterns. Most notably, it offers more warmth and moisture that can be carried over the southern United States. You can read more about El Nino here.

An El Nino phase is expected to develop this winter, which could influence our weather. The National Weather Service in Huntsville has compiled some data on El Nino winters here in the Tennessee Valley and found the pattern does correspond to below average temperatures. That depends on how strong the El Nino event could be though and there are a number of factors that could also influence our winter.

The bottom line is this: Don’t put all of your expectations about winter on one factor, whether it’s folklore or not.

The Tennessee Valley is just north enough to expect a few good hits of cold air in an average season, and just far enough south to expect a few milder periods during winter too. How cold those cold snaps are and how much rain or snow would come with them is in the finer details that come up during our weekly forecasts. That’s why it’s important to still continue checking your local forecast regularly!

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