Predictions for Another Wild Winter

September 26, 2015 02:13 AM

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
for you!


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.  

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Spell Check

Atwood , KS
10/5/2015 10:00 PM

  Farmers need and would benefit greatly if scientists, universities, the government, and whoever else predict weather would stop spending money on global warming/ climate change/ weather weirding, and focus on predicting reliable accurate long range weather. If I new my growing season would be shorter/longer than normal with more/less precipitation, I could make better decisions on what to plant and when. Today's weathermen can barely predict what the weather will be like in 5 minutes. Stop with the global warming and concentrate on weather patterns to better predict.

Mr. T
Anywhere, SC
10/2/2015 01:24 PM

  To Mark in Humboldt: Your comments are ridiculous. Clearly, you don't understand the laws of economics (you know - supply vs. demand); you apparently do not understand credit markets either. I suggest you stick to corn farming, and let everyone else stick to finance and economics. Lastly, I presume you must not buy any food (do you grow everything you eat?). My grocery bill is plenty expensive enough, and it is constantly increasing. If you don't like corn prices where they are, then maybe you should grow something else. I have been studying you whiny midwest farmers for years now. You are always whining about corn & soybean prices, but you ALWAYS plant a field full of those two crops and only those two crops EVERY YEAR. DIVERSIFY! Raise a mixture of crops; include animals in your operations - - do something different! Quit paying asinine prices for land; reduce your debt loads. I could go on and on about all the evils I see with you midwest farmers - such as your free government handouts in the forms of subsidies and crop insurance that I, as a taxpayer, have to pay. Collectively, the midwest farmers created the low corn prices they now see! Quit whining about a problem you created!

Eric F
Edmore, MI
9/21/2015 09:33 PM

  The best way to check the credibility is to look at old Almanacs, and compare their predictions to what actually happened.


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