It's late August and that means the annual winter forecast from The Old Farmer's Almanac is out! Will be it cold and snowy? Wet and warm? I know a lot of people love to look at their forecast, and they claim their accuracy rate is really high-about 80 percent. I don't know what methodology they use to verify their forecasts, but I'm skeptical that they are that accurate.
So what is their forecast for North Carolina? "Brisk and wet." That's actually their general forecast for North Carolina and several states all the way to Florida.
I'm not sure what to make of this, since there are many brisk days in a normal winter in North Carolina. But how many brisk days are there in South Florida? You can safely assume they expect rainfall above average, but by how much?
The folks there claim they make their forecasts using mathematics and astronomy. Sunspot activity, tidal action of the moon, and even the position of the planets are taken into consideration for their forecast. I'm not sure how matters where Mercury or Mars (or any other planet) is located when forecasting winter weather in the United States, but they keep a lot of their forecasting techniques secret.
Now, to be fair, they do provide a more detailed forecast for specific periods during the winter months. Take those forecasts with a grain of salt. Last year, they predicted two snowfalls for North Carolina, one in January and one in February. It only snowed once, and it was in early December. And it didn't snow at all in Fayetteville and southern parts of the state.
I'm not a big fan of long range forecasting, whether it's from the Old Farmer's Almanac or more traditional sources like NOAA.
NOAA forecasts are much more general-warmer than normal, wetter than normal, etc. But specific winter weather events cannot be forecast more than a few days out, despite high-powered computers that analyzed billions of bits of data per second.
We CAN see trends a couple of weeks out-for instance, a turn to a colder pattern that could lead to snow or ice. But there's no way to know it's going to snow on a specific day or week this far out. It's impossible. If it turns out the Almanac gets one or two forecasts for rain or snow at a specific period correct for next winter, it's pure chance, in my opinion. But you can bet a lot of folks will remember that, and forget all the ones they get wrong. That's just human nature.
I don't mean to sound too harsh, I know it's fun to look at, especially if you're a snow lover. And there's a lot of other good information in the Almanac. Just don't plan on a snow day based on its forecast.
Farmers' Almanac predicts 'brisk, wet' winter for NC... so what does that mean?