Farmers’ Almanac makes bold projections, but are they valid?
Weather forecasters tend to have a flair for the dramatic. The newly released winter 2015-16 outlook from the Farmers’ Almanac is a perfect example. Ready for a wild winter? Has Farmers’ Almanac got the predictions
The almanac predicts a rough go again in New England, where snowy, unseasonably cold weather could dominate the winter months. The Midwest doesn’t get off the hook either. It predicts near-normal winter temperatures in the western and central Great Lake States, plus much of the Great Plains, although it also describes these areas as “very snowy,” “snow-filled” and “frigid.”
Meantime, “nothing too extreme” is predicted for the South. The West Coast gets off easy, with dry, mild weather in California and wet, mild conditions in the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s like winter Déjà vu,” says Peter Geiger, Farmers’ Almanac editor. “This past year our bitterly cold, shivery forecasts came true in many states, including the 23 eastern states that experienced one of their top-10 coldest Februaries on record.”
Geiger jokes that stocking up on winter survival gear might be pertinent.
But a bigger question looms—how reliable is the Farmers’ Almanac weather predictions? The publication, which many enjoy for non-weather reasons such as recipes, lifestyle tips, and moon and eclipse calendars, is sometimes criticized for its secretive nature for predicting weather.
According to Farmers’ Almanac website, “The only person who knows all the details of our formula is Caleb Weatherbee, our esteemed weather prognosticator. The formula itself is locked in the heart and mind of its calculator. While Caleb is a real person who lives somewhere in the U.S., his true identity and name are secret.”
The almanac’s chief competitor, the Old Farmer’s Almanac, offers similarly secretive claims around its weather prediction formula, claiming it is locked in a vault for safekeeping.
Dubious statements like this tend to lower credibility, says Laura Edwards, South Dakota State University Extension climate field specialist.
“In general, I do not give much credence to predictions from places like Farmers’ Almanac as there is not any scientific basis for their projections or seasonal forecasts,” she says. “It’s fun to talk about, but I don’t give much weight to the forecasts.”
Predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and your state’s climate specialists might be a safer bet. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) December, January and February outlook is not quite in sync with the Farmers’ Almanac forecast.
For this time period, CPC says the probability for above-average temperatures is greatest in the north half of the U.S., from Ohio and Michigan stretching all the way to the West Coast. Cooler-than-normal temperatures are slated for the South and Southwest.
For precipitation, the Mid-Atlantic, South, Southwest and southern California will be wetter than normal. The upper Rockies and a pocket in the Midwest, including Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin could prove drier than normal this winter.