Review of Farmers Almanac Winter Weather Forecast

Brisk, Polar, Cold, Frosty, Freezing, Icy, Subzero, Bitter, Glacial, Siberian Winter Hype. Sometimes these terms are thrown around by The Farmers Almanac and Old Farmers Almanac. Their job is to sell copies and that can come at a price for accuracy. 

The Farmers Almanac is calling for a very cold winter this coming year across almost all of the United States. They mention a “Polar Coaster” of brisk conditions in some areas. Frequent bouts of Canadian air will slide into much of the nation with just short respites of thaws. 

Their competitor – The Old Farmers Almanac- also favors a fairly widespread cold winter, but they are not as aggressive in their outlook. The common theme with both publications is an active weather pattern with many storms. 

Both almanac’s have forecasts for few day periods going out to several months in the future. Even using advanced computer forecasting models and the latest meteorological technology this is not possible. So, do the Almanac’s have the magic touch to predict the future? 

They use tactics developed in 1818 which have since been adapted into a formula. “The formula takes things like sunspot activity, position of the planets, tidal action of the Moon, and a variety of other factors into consideration,” the Old Farmers Almanac says. 

The mathematical and astronomical formula behind the Farmers Almanac takes into consideration “things like sunspot activity, tidal action of the Moon, the position of the planets, and a variety of other factors. The only person who knows the exact formula is the Farmers’ Almanac weather prognosticator who goes by the pseudonym of Caleb Weatherbee. To protect this proprietary and reliable formula, the editors of the Farmers’ Almanac prefer to keep both Caleb’s true identity and the formula a closely guarded brand secret.” 

The accuracy according to independent studies is similar to flipping a coin (around 50%). There’s a lot of cool information and entertainment contained in the Almanac, but it’s probably not the best source for a forecast months into the future. 

Meteorologists use a mix of climatology, ocean and atmospheric temperature and pressure patterns, plus advanced computer models to predict seasonal outlooks. The accuracy is not 100%, but there is more reliability in general trends based on proven correlations across the globe. 

Graphic of ENSO Temperature and precipitation anomalies for each quarter of the year.

This winter we believe a neutral El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) pattern will occur. This means close to average temperatures along and near the equatorial Pacific Ocean. A negative EPO (ridging and warm temperatures near the Gulf of Alaska) also appears likely. These setups normally cause warm weather in the western United States with big cold swings in the Plains and Midwest. 

NOAA/NESDIS SST Anomaly Image 2 Sept. 2019

There are many factors that still need to show themselves, but perhaps the Almanac will get SOME areas right. Neoweather will have a preliminary look at the winter forecast coming mid September.