Farmer's Almanac releases its winter forecast: Why you should ignore it

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It happens every August, and usually starts with an e-mail, or something I see on Facebook or Twitter.

Then comes the story on network news. And I'm ready to scream.

I'm talking about the release of the new issue of The Old Farmer's Almanac. 

Now, I don't have a problem with the cute little stories in the Almanac, its recipes, or its astronomical information. There's some interesting and fun stuff to read in that little publication. However, I do have a problem with what they claim are specific weather "forecasts" for the entire nation.

Here's what the Almanac's staff writes about how they make their forecasts: "We derive our weather forecasts from a secret formula that was devised by the founder of this Almanac, Robert B. Thomas, in 1792. Thomas believed that weather on Earth was influenced by sunspots, which are magnetic storms on the surface of the Sun."

That's right. The Almanac's weather "forecasters" use a theory developed by a guy 227 years ago. In fact, they go on to say that the "formula" is locked in a black box in their offices in Dublin, New Hampshire. Really…I can't make this stuff up. 

They apparently don't consider any of the advancements made in meteorology since 1792.  That means that they don't consider El Nino / La Nina, other important oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns, data from satellites, nor guidance from computer models.  So how do they produce exact forecasts for specific weeks throughout the year ahead? They can't. And they shouldn't claim that they can.  Don't you think that, if I could forecast in August your specific weather for Thanksgiving week, that I'd be doing it by now?

Don't you think that if I could tell you today that we'll have a big travel-snarling Christmas week snowstorm, that I would?  And don't you think that if I could tell you eight months ahead of time that we'd have a particularly stormy end of April, that I would?

The Farmers Almanac is a fun thing to read -- just don't plan anything around their seasonal forecasting.

About the Author:

Local 4 meteorologist Paul Gross was born in Detroit and has spent his entire life and career right here in southeast Michigan. Paul has researched, written and produced eight half-hour documentaries for WDIV, as well as many science, historical and environmental stories.