Considered by some to be a reliable source since 1818, the Farmers’ Almanac is where many turn when it comes to looking for long-term weather predictions. While many meteorologists avoid making predictions more than a week out, the Farmers Almanac has no problem making a weather pattern prediction several months ahead of time. They recently released their prediction for the winter of 2018-2019 and it’s sure to be met with a strong reaction from Coloradans.
A brief statement of five words – “Teeth-Chattering Cold, Plentiful Snow” – the Farmers’ Almanac prediction is quite the contrast from the reality of last ski season, when low snow numbers were seen statewide. Other predictions for the region include colder than normal temperatures along the Continental Divide, a particularly frigid February, and a “stormier-than-normal March,” likely to push snow totals above the norm for the Rockies, including Colorado. It’s also worth noting that their month-to-month predictions have snow coming early in the season with “some wet snow for Rockies” starting as early as October 1st.
Oddly enough, the “Farmers’ Almanac” predictions seem to be a bit off of the “Old Farmer’s Almanac” predictions, a different almanac company that was founded in 1792. This company predicts above-normal temperatures across most of the country, with a mild winter in Colorado bringing a mild amount of snow. This almanac’s predictions also call for more rain across a majority of the United States, but a particularly cold and especially snowy winter for Canada.
Before we get too excited either way, let’s take a look at how accurate farmers almanac predictions actually are.
If you ask either company, they’ll claim they’re accurate…obviously. The Old Farmer’s Almanac claims 80% accuracy. Along similar lines, here’s a quote from the editor of the first company mentioned, Farmers’ Almanac:
“Contrary to the stories storming the web, our time-tested, long-range formula is pointing toward a very long, cold, and snow-filled winter. We stand by our forecast and formula, which accurately predicted the many storms last winter, as well as this summer’s steamy, hot conditions.”
As you might expect, these claims of accuracy are often contested, with a Penn State meteorologist, Paul Knight, suggesting that the accuracy might be closer to 10%, at least in the case of Old Farmer’s Almanac. His main concern is that almanac predictions are often so vague, they can be twisted to fit the actuality after the fact. He didn’t specifically comment on the competition, Farmers’ Almanac.
It’s also to consider how these predictions are made. In the case of Old Farmer’s Almanac specifically “[they] derive [their] weather forecasts from a secret formula that was devised by the founder of this Almanac, Robert B. Thomas, in 1792. Thomaos believed that weather on Earth was influenced by sunspots, which are magnetic storms on the surface of the Sun.”
In the case of Farmers’ Almanac, they’re very specific on their website that their editors use no “computer satellite tracking equipment, weather lore, or groundhogs.” Instead, their rules are based on specifics developed by a man named David Young in 1818, also looking at sunspot activity, as well as tidal action of the moon and the positions of the planets, among other things. They also claim that their predictions are 80% to 85% accurate.
Let’s take a look at how they did last year. For the winter of 2017-2018, the Farmers’ Almanac predicted a less-harsh winter than normal, with moderate snowfall in Colorado. They also predicted a big boom of snow on the East Coast – two things that turned out to be true. Check and check. However, the Old Farmer’s Almanac predicted that Colorado would have a “mild, snowy” winter, with a similar prediction made for the East Coast. Due to the big storms out east and a particular lack of snow in Colorado, I’d consider this prediction less accurate, but too vague to discount.
At the end of the day, it seems like no one really knows what will actually be hitting Colorado this winter season. From meteorologists that typically won’t make long term predictions to two “time-tested” almanacs that can’t agree, we’ll just have to wait and see.
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