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What About The Old Farmer’s Almanac?

Monday, October 01, 2012

Last year the Old Farmer’s Almanac was calling for a mild, stormy winter. Well, at least it was half right. It was one of the mildest on record. This year’s edition of the 221 year old publication says our winter will be much colder but with below normal snowfall. As far as I can tell, the consensus amongst most meteorologists is pretty much along the same line as far as the cold is concerned. Many feel it also will be snowier.

As a kid and, later, as a practicing meteorologist, I have always had an interest in the weather predictions of the Old Farmer’s Almanac. But I can honestly say that I have never spent a great deal of time statistically trying to verify their predictions.

They always seem to make great claims of accuracy, but they are very short on specifics and statistical verification. To me it seems that their forecasts are so general in nature that they tend not to be very useful on a daily basis. And to their credit, they admit that if you are planning an outdoor event it is best to consult your daily, local forecast.

Their seasonal forecasts are made, according to them, under the cloak of a “secret” age-old formula used since 1818. Being a scientist and knowing the advances in atmospheric science, it is hard for me to believe that so called “formula” has not been changed since 1818.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the Almanac is a lot of fun with much good information. It’s just that when it comes to predicting weather, I am not a big fan. It’s not too much of a stretch to predict a big snowstorm for sometime in February. In 8 out of 10 Februarys we usually get one (or more). That’s 80% of the time. Curiously, that’s exactly the percentage that the Almanac claims for their accuracy!


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