The Current

The Farmers' Almanac has some competition with a new method for seasonal forecasting

The Farmers' Almanac overall record on accurately predicting the weather for a coming year is mixed. Now, some British Researchers say they've got a new method for forecasting long-term weather patterns that is way more accurate. But how will it stack up against the 200 year history of the Farmers' Almanac?...
The Farmers' Almanac overall record on accurately predicting the weather for a coming year is mixed. Now, some British Researchers say they've got a new method for forecasting long-term weather patterns that is way more accurate. But how will it stack up against the 200 year history of the Farmers' Almanac?

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The Met Office, UK's national weather service, has found a way to predict winter weather in the North Atlantic with up to
62% accuracy. Before now seasonal forecasts for this part of the world have been very inaccurate. (Reuters/Eric Miller)

"Get ready to bundle up. The 2014 Farmers' Almanac hits news stands today, saying it's going to be bitterly cold this winter. It's also predicting that Super Bowl 48 could be a snow-bowl. Oh no. The game is being played outdoors at MetLife stadium here in the New Jersey area on February 2nd. The Almanac predicts a brutal storm will hit the area that weekend." A CBS News report from last August with a 2014 Farmer's Almanac prediction

The Farmers' Almanac turned out to be correct about the brutal winter. Across much of North America, this was one of the coldest and snowiest winters in decades. But the feared "Snow Bowl" never came to pass. Temperatures were mild with neither snow nor storm.

A lot of ink and angst might have been spared if there were a more accurate way of predicting the weather. Professor Adam Scaife is with the UK's national weather service, the Met Office. He leads the Met's long range forecasting research team, which has recently made some major advancements in seasonal weather forecasting. Adam Scaife was in Exeter, England.

Canada does its own forecasting with computer-based models from the Canadian Meteorological Centre in Dorval, Quebec. Richard Hogue is the director of operations there. He says that forecasters here in Canada - or anywhere else, for that matter - didn't see the brutally cold winter coming.

"Seasonal forecasting at that range is really for highly specialized uses and users. The public, our colleagues in the media would love to have, you know, a sense of what the summer is going to be, but I can tell you the science is not there yet." Richard Hogue, Director of the Canadian Meteorological Centre

However, Canadian forecasters did predict a cooler than usual February and March... which is pretty much what came to pass.

Paul Knight knows about the importance and challenges of seasonal forecasting. He is a Senior Lecturer in Meteorology and a Climatologist at Pennsylvania State University. Paul Knight was in State College, Pennsylvania.

So, more accurate long-term weather forecasting could be a good thing for the economy and for government planners ... but the quest for the perfect forecast -- and the enduring popularity of the Farmers' Almanac -- may reveal something about our psychological make up too.

Alan Stewart is a Weather and Climate Psychologist and a member of The University of Georgia's Department of Counseling and Human Development. Alan Stewart was in Athens, Georgia.


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This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.



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