*Accuracy not guaranteed, and probably not likely
Good evening all,
I have great news tonight. The Farmers’ Almanac, not to be confused with The Old Farmer’s Almanac (who knew?), just released its winter forecast for this year, so plan your next 8 months accordingly. (Follow here for their article) Let’s take a look for what they’re saying for your region.
Well that’s it, no reason to say anything else, this is law in these parts. It’s going to be cold EVERYWHERE and there’s nothing you can do about it. But just for fun, lets take a deeper look. From the Almanac’s website article,
For 2013–2014, we are forecasting a winter that will experience below average temperatures for about two-thirds of the nation. A large area of below-normal temperatures will predominate from roughly east of the Continental Divide to the Appalachians, north and east through New England. Coldest temperatures will be over the Northern Plains on east into the Great Lakes. Only for the Far West and the Southeast will there be a semblance of winter temperatures averaging close to normal, but only a few areas will enjoy many days where temperatures will average above normal.
and thinking about that wonderful New Jersey Superbowl?
Over the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, we are “red-flagging” the first ten days of February for possible heavy winter weather. More importantly, on February 2, Super Bowl XLVIII will be played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey’s Meadowlands—the very first time a Super Bowl will be played outdoors in a typically cold weather environment.
Oh no! The Superbowl is doomed! And it seemed like such a good idea to have it in New Jersey too. But wait! The OLD Farmers Almanac might save us from this snowy fate with their own, equally amazing seasonal forecast. (For the OFA Long-Range Weather Forecasts click here)
Winter will be colder and drier than normal, although snowfall will be above normal in most of the region. The coldest periods will be in early and mid-December and in early to mid-February. The snowiest periods will be in early and mid-December, and in early and mid-February.
I guess that’s it, the Superbowl will be played in a blizzard. And while that sounds cool, we’ll probably never see another cold-weather, outdoor Superbowl.
Sarcasm aside, whats the real scoop with these forecasts? We all read the Farmers’ Almanac annual winter forecast when it comes out, only to quickly dismiss it as an interesting bit of fiction. Last August I wrote a post that took a look at some of the factors meteorologists use for seasonal forecasts, including El-Nino and the North Atlantic Oscillation. And while these tools are helpful, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center only issues long-term forecasts that look like this…
Not very certain, and not very impressive to look at, but that’s what modern-day meteorology can accomplish. To be honest I scoff at Accuweather’s 30-day forecasts. While today’s models are miles ahead of their predecessors, after so many timesteps the results become useless. In my opinion, after several days we lose our ability to make accurate forecasts for single locations and after a week we cannot predict the position of large-scale features with any certainty. Seasonal forecasts should be considered seasonal averages with no mention of individual days or weeks. Oh, and this winter? The Climate Prediction Center is predicting a decent chance that this winter will be warmer than average for most of the continental U.S.
And the numbers back this up…
I found a Discovery News article from 2011 where Nick Bond, NOAA climatologist, was interviewed regarding the accuracy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
“The forecasts are sometimes correct. In terms of getting the sense of the weather anomalies right, for example whether it will be colder or warmer than normal, the OFA is correct about 50 percent of the time,” said Bond.
Flip a coin people, and predict the weather. This type of forecasts is something we simply can not do yet. Maybe your grandchild will be able to plan that vacation or wedding day with guaranteed weather reports, but I doubt it’ll happen in our lifetime.
Why do we believe it?
Well, maybe not “we” as in you and me, but a lot of Americans. I think it’s the vague, fortune teller-ish nature of the forecasts. To quote Neil Fox of the University of Missouri…
“My impression is that many of the successes are worded vaguely enough that there’s a range of happenings that can be claimed as success,” Fox told Discovery News.
These forecasts stick in your head. I don’t know why but I always remember what the Almanac’s say for each winter. Many people may read a frigid forecast and tell their friends how The Farmers’ Almanac was right each time there’s a cold snap. It doesn’t matter if the winter is on average two degrees above normal, only that it was really cold at some point. A Farmers’ Almanac spokeman reported that readers rated their forecasts 75 to 85 accurate. We believe because we want to believe.
Just look at The Farmers’ Almanac website and you’ll see a list of their successes. Look at this one.
The 2011 Farmers’ Almanac also forecast a hurricane threat for the Southeastern U.S. at the end of August, which came true in the form of Hurricane Irene.
Really!?!?! A hurricane threat during PEAK HURRICANE SEASON in the region most likely to see landfalling storms? How could anybody have seen this coming?
Listen, I’m not saying that their isn’t any value in the old ways, but consider these forecasts an entertaining bit of fiction and nothing more.
Til next time everyone,