We’re in for a chilly winter. At least, that’s what is being predicted in this year’s “Old Farmer’s Almanac.”
The newest edition of the 230-year-old series projects the 2021-22 winter as a particularly cold one, dubbing it the “season of shivers.” The almanac’s editor, Janice Stillman, says it could even be “one of the longest and coldest that we’ve seen in years.”
The almanac, which has often stirred up debate about its accuracy, suggests this winter will deal an icy combo of above-average snowfall and below-average temperatures in the New England area, as well as parts of the Appalachian region, the Ohio Valley and the northern part of the Deep South. Interestingly enough, it predicts a colder and snowier-than-usual winter for southern New Mexico, as well.
Much of the western U.S., an area already besieged by drought, should expect more dryness, the almanac projects. Nearly all of California, currently battling the raging Caldor Fire near Lake Tahoe, is pegged for a mild and dry winter, along with most of Arizona and parts of western Washington and Oregon.
Before and after:Photos reveal the horror of California’s Caldor Fire near Lake Tahoe
Only a few areas of the country, like the Pacific coast and the northern Plains region, are predicted to experience only “mild” temperatures. Just about everyone else should get ready to bundle up, the almanac says.
Almanac predicts chilly temps. Should you trust it?
“The Old Farmer’s Almanac” has made a name for itself by providing long-term weather forecasts on an annual basis. The book also gives readers full moon dates, recipes and various self-help tips.
But these big picture weather predictions should be taken with a grain of salt, some weather experts say.
Both the “Old Farmer’s Almanac,” which began in 1792, and the “Farmer’s Almanac,” which started in 1818, got their starts more than a century before satellite weather tracking became a practice.
The “Old Farmer’s Almanac” says its secret weather-predicting formula was devised in 1792 by its founder, Robert B. Thomas, and notes about the formula are “locked in a black box” at the almanac’s offices to this day. The almanac appears to have changed with the times, though.
“Over the years, we have refined and enhanced that formula with state-of-the-art technology and modern scientific calculations,” the almanac’s website reads.
The almanac says it now uses solar science, climatology and meteorology to make long-term weather predictions.
Hurricane Ida’s strength may have seemed surprising. But not to forecasters.
Still, experts have for years been dubious of the almanac’s accuracy.
In 2016 and 2017, meteorologist Jan Null conducted an accuracy review of the “Old Farmer’s Almanac,” giving out grades to the almanac’s winter forecast based on how the projections compared to the actual weather outcome in each region of the U.S.
Null’s rating system was relatively simple, assigning one of three grades – good, bad and mixed – to the almanac’s temperature and precipitation predictions in each region of the U.S.
Say, for instance, the almanac predicted a dry season in one region. If that region ended up experiencing below average rainfall, Null would assign a “good” accuracy rating to the forecast for that region. If it received above average rainfall, the forecast earned a “bad” rating. And if it had average rainfall, the forecast earned a “mixed” rating.
Just 25% of the 57 regions reviewed got a “good” accuracy rating for precipitation predictions in the 2016 and 2017 editions of the “Old Farmer’s Almanac.” For temperature predictions during that same time span, the almanac earned a “good” accuracy rating on just under 33% of the 52 regions reviewed.
Similarly, OpenSnow found “no track record of accuracy” in a review of 2013-14 winter weather predictions.
The results from a few years of forecasts may be a small sample for a book that dates back to George Washington’s presidency, but the findings were a far cry from the almanac’s traditional claim of 80% accuracy.
Follow Jay Cannon of USA TODAY on Twitter: @JayTCannon