Farmers' Almanac predicts snowy winter
Monday, August 26, 2002
LEWISTON, Maine -- If last winter's mild weather kept your snow shovel buried beneath beach towels and tanning butter, the Farmers' Almanac recommends dusting it off this fall.
Folks from Maine to Colorado can expect heavy snow and colder-than-normal temperatures, according to this year's edition.
"We are predicting a rough winter, with severe weather patterns that gradually shift eastward as the winter progresses," writes Caleb Weatherbee, the pseudonym used by the almanac's forecaster.
The 186-year-old almanac, which goes on sale Tuesday, made similar prognostications last winter. Those predictions, based on a secret model known to only two people that takes into account sunspot activity, planet position, and effects of the moon, were mostly wrong.
It forecast several feet of snow last year for New England, but the region had warmer-than-normal temperatures -- the toastiest winter ever recorded in Portland, Maine, and Burlington, Vt. -- and a dearth of snow.
Perhaps the editors can be forgiven: Between La Ninas and El Ninos, and talk of climatic change, there has been some weird weather, including droughts in the United States and flooding in Europe.
The winter forecasts, which date back to Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac in the mid-1700s, have become a signpost of Americana. Fretting about their accuracy seems almost beside the point.
Editors insist the almanac's winter forecast has historically been accurate about 75 to 80 percent of the time, even though most meteorologists say the weather cannot be predicted so far in advance.
Such judgments don't seem to faze the publication's editor, who says long-range predictions fill an important niche.
When the Farmers' Almanac, not to be confused with the Old Farmer's Almanac in New Hampshire, began publishing, almanacs provided the only weather forecasts available.
Back then, the predictions were used mostly by farmers. Nowadays, they may be used more often to pick wedding dates, said editor Peter Geiger.
"I think you use different forecasts for different reasons," he said, also acknowledging: "People do judge us."