Winter Weather: Science vs. The Farmers’ Almanac

Winter weather predictions from top climate scientists and the venerable Farmer’s Almanac are at odds for 2010. So who’s right?

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We’ve got your winter 2010 forecast for the Midwest: COLD. Er, WARM. Shucks, I meant COLD?

The 2010 Farmers’ Almanac, which hits stores across the country today, predicts a frigid forecast for roughly three quarters of the U.S. throughout most of the 2010 winter season. The 193rd edition of this popular climate bible claims that most of the nation between the Continental Divide and the Appalachians will experience temperatures significantly lower than average—with the central states and the area around the Great Lakes suffering from the chilliest weather.

There’s only one problem: Science disagrees. Researchers at the National Weather Center’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) refute the Almanac’s frosty winter prediction. According to the CPC, winter temperatures for most of the country are expected to be slightly warmer than average. Though they cop to some “uncertainty,” the CPC researchers explained in their August 2009 Summary Report that they do expect a warmer winter, as current El Nino conditions are expected to “strengthen and persist.”

But before you reject the Almanac out-of-hand in favor of the eggheads, consider this: Avid Farmers’ Almanac readers and fans contend that the long-range weather forecast is accurate 80-85 percent of the time. The weather predictions, which are made two years in advance and always attributed to a fictional “Caleb Weatherbee,” draw from “top-secret” formulas involving sunspots, moon phases, and other astronomical and atmospheric factors and conditions.

Regardless of methodology, for nearly three centuries the Almanac has enjoyed a solid and dedicated readership with an annual circulation of nearly 7 million. (It probably doesn’t hurt that the Almanac also offers tips on how to save energy and money, pursue simple and sustainable living, and home, garden and outdoor advice. Their “Beloved” Moon Calendar even offers suggestions about the best days to quit smoking or look for a new job.)

For us regular citizens without a great crystal orb to gaze into or a Ph.D. in climatology or atmospheric science, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

This Boulderite is used to 300 days of annual sunshine and relatively mild Front Range winters, so I’m rooting for the scientists. I, for one, would much rather fret about climate change on days when I can feel my fingers.

–Jessie Lucier

Farmers’ Almanac

National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center Aug. 2009 Summary Report

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