Old Farmer’s Almanac Provides Insights into Their Weather Prediction Techniques
Can Old Farmer’s Almanac Provide Insights into Fort Collins Weather?
In a July 2021 email to their newsletter subscribers, publishers of The Old Farmer’s Almanac offered a few hints about how they’ve been predicting the weather far in advance with what they have traditionally claimed to be 80% accuracy since the days when President George Washington was in office. They didn’t give away any specific secrets, but what they did have to say was pretty interesting.
A bit of history
The Old Farmer’s Almanac was founded in 1792 and is a part of American history. The nation’s first farmers relied on it when planting and harvesting their crops. Of course, it wasn’t called “old” back then. Today, the Almanac offers a wide array of advice and useful information online, most of which has to do with home gardening. But you’ll also find a wealth of information about natural health and wellness, astronomy and phases of the moon, articles for kids, weather forecasts, recipes, planting schedules, old-fashioned wit, and wisdom, and even a garden planner app that will lay out your garden for you. Most of the information is free, including a daily newsletter available by subscription. You can, of course, purchase a hard copy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac if you wish. The site is Almanac.com.
First, some forecasting folklore
While the Almanac folks say they don’t use these old methods and can’t attest to their levels of accuracy, the fact that they’ve been used for so many generations indicates they might just work. They’re also fun to try on your own if you have access to the right plants and trees.
If your Colorado oak tree produces a lot more acorns than usual or if the apples you pick from your tree have exceptionally thick skins, you may be in for a cold, long, Fort Collins winter. If your corn has thick husks, that may also be a warning that the coming winter will be harsh.
Bees seem to also know what the coming winter has in store. If the winter will be harsh, they supposedly make their hives higher above the ground. If a mild winter is coming, they will be lower than usual. If you notice low bees along with thin-skinned onions, that’s a good indicator that winter will be nothing to worry about.
Got a persimmon tree? Cut open one of the seeds and examine it using the silverware methodology. If it’s spoon-shaped, don’t be surprised if you get a lot of heavy wet snow. A snow shovel is like a huge spoon, right? If it looks like a fork, your winter should be fairly mild. Any snow you get should be light and powdery, which we love in Colorado! If it’s knife-shaped, cutting, icy winds are in your future. Once you’re done examining the seed, check out Almanac.com’s recipe for persimmon bread.
How the Almanac staff creates long-term weather forecasts
The Almanac was founded by Robert B. Thomas in 1792. He believed magnetic sunspots, or solar flares, influenced weather patterns on Earth. Almanac staff says his original notes are locked in a box at their New Hampshire headquarters and that they won’t give up specific details, but they will share some general concepts.
Over the past 200+ years, Almanac staffers have refined and built upon the Thomas sunspot theory. They’ve collected data, analyzed it using digital algorithms, and applied scientific calculations to it in order to maintain and improve upon their established level of forecasting accuracy. They’ve done more research on sunspots and their influence on Earth, incorporated results of studies of prevailing weather patterns, and also taken meteorological factors into consideration. These include atmospheric data, ocean and land temperatures, jet streams, and other factors used by modern meteorologists.
Once they’ve gathered all their data, they compare it to historical weather records and take into account the current and expected levels of sunspot activity.
Are their forecasts as accurate as they claim?
Almanac staffers have always claimed that their long-term seasonal forecasts are around 80% accurate. Every year, they take a look back and evaluate their accuracy. Although they admit to being running a bit below their 80% accuracy with their current predictions for 2021, their forecasts for 2019 – 2020 were correct 80.5% of the time. Their snowfall predictions were, for the most part, accurate. So were temperature forecasts, with the exception of areas of Florida, the Atlantic Corridor, Hawaii, the Pacific Southwest, and the Intermountain regions. As for rainfall, the only areas where the predictions did not come to fruition were the Ohio Valley and Upper Midwest. For all the details, see almanac.com/how-accurate-old-farmers-almanacs-weather-forecast.
What are Almanac staffers expecting for the remainder of 2021?
Solar activity is expected to be low, which usually indicates lower than normal temperatures over the coming winter, especially in Colorado. They are, however, predicting warmer than normal temperatures for the summer and, so far, that seems to be accurate across the country. That’s as specific as they got in their article, saying that, if you want more, you’ll have to join their Old Farmer’s Almanac Club.
If you have a weather app on your phone, you’ve probably noticed its forecasts changing multiple times daily. Even when they do change, they often turn out to be inaccurate, anyway. And so it is with TV meteorologists as well. Weather forecasting is an inexact science, especially in the short term. Is your app or local weather forecaster accurate 70+ percent of the time in a five or ten-day forecast? If their claims are true, the Farmer’s Almanac methods for developing long-range forecasts seasons in advance are amazingly accurate.
Check out Almanac.com. You’ll likely find something, probably many things, that will interest you. A great deal of what’s offered is free and you’ll be exploring a slice of American history.