Should you trust the Farmers Almanac? All-day today, throughout my social media feeds and on the news- I saw frequent posts about the Old Farmers Almanac predicting a very cold and snowy winter for the Midwest- bringing haunting memories of last seasons Winter that never seemed to leave us. Remember it snowed until nearly May? I have seen references to winter for 2019-2020 being “miserable” and also the return of the “Polar Coaster” – a semi different twist on the old “Polar Vortex” term that gets thrown around.
Since 1792- yes, 1792, the Farmer’s Almanac has been published continuously. They claim to be fairly accurate- and in some cases, the data backs this up. HOWEVER- these findings are based on statistical deviations from historical 30-year averages when it comes to temperature and precip. When you end up averaging an overall trend and deviation over a long enough period of time- for instance, 5 months worth of colder and ‘winter-like’ conditions, the claims made by this publication (which prints 3 million-plus copies annually)-end up seeming fairly accurate.
A large portion of their mostly secretive ‘recipe’ for these predictions is reliant on sunspot activity, solar activity and how these patterns and trends relate to historical weather conditions- blended with modern-day Meteorology.
While a deviation from average can be helpful overall- as we know, living in the state of Minnesota, all that it takes are a couple of ‘mean’ cold fronts, and big storms to throw off the averages. We have had plenty of anomaly years here, including snow seasons that wrap up in March with 80F temps, and snow seasons that last all the way until May. In many cases, these are deviations from the average- but still not indicative of an overall pattern change- or anything that is truly worse than normal for our Region. All that it takes for this to happen is one bad storm, one large trough in the jetstream- after that storm, and the follow-up cooldown. We have even had years with early-season severe weather and tornado outbreaks, in March and April, only to be followed by another cooldown, and even snow. I remember scenes of severe weather and tornado outbreaks, and river flooding in the spring, which then froze solid in the subsequent cooldown.
Where am I going with this? Well- I have not been alive as long as the Old Farmers Almanac has been in print- only 36 years for me, so I cannot verify everything here, obviously. That said- I don’t recall a single year, where week by week, and even month by month, the overall climate we are experiencing locally has directly lined up with the predictions of the almanac throughout the entire season it is predicting.
Even the graphic below- suggesting a ‘parade of snowstorms’ –sure- we may have an active week or two, or even two months- but then we may have a dry stretch or even a warm stretch. Since this is a ‘deviation from average’ it will end up seeming right- but from a week by week planning perspective, and from a business perspective- it’s much more important to rely on skilled forecasters and Meteorologists to predict your day to day needs- and advise on those activities as best as possible. The Old Farmers Almanac to me is merely a fun discussion point- something that people look to, year after year, as a discussion point, and something to have a general idea of what to expect. It isn’t always right, and especially week by week, no way. But- overall, could we have a parade of snowstorms? I guarantee we will at some point, but that doesn’t mean Winter (snow) will last until May like it did last year– or maybe it will? We will have to wait until about April 2020 to find that out. :)
Am I hating on the Almanac? Of course not! It’s fun to read and see the posts. But- you are much more likely to benefit from consistent forecasting, especially if your business depends on it. We all know that Meteorologists like myself have a tough enough time predicting beyond 36-60 hours these days, as the weather in this part of the country is so dynamic and variable.
Until next time- I appreciate you checking in! Don’t forget to continue checking this site for updates, and also follow on Twitter, and Instagram, and Facebook! Links on the footer of my site! Also- don’t forget to download the BoKnowsWeather app– if you haven’t already. It is due for an update- but for now, it remains to be an easy to use and convenient app that doesn’t take up much space on your phone.
-Meteorologist Bohdan Cole