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Predictions vs. Reality: The Winter So Far

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We are now a little over a month into the winter of 2011, and the comments are pouring in from readers. So far, these have been a mixed bag. Depending on where you live, some of you are pretty happy with us. Others are practically calling for our heads. No one ever said predicting the weather — particularly two years in advance — was fun, and it certainly doesn’t make you many friends much of the time, even (or sometimes, especially) if you get it right.

So, how are we doing so far? At the risk of sounding pollyannaish, I think our forecast has been pretty darn good, overall. Let’s take a look.

So far, the East Coast has been exceptionally cold. This frigidity was expected. In fact, we warned the Eastern half of the country to brace itself for “a cold slap in the face.” We said New England would be “bitterly cold with average snowfall,” and that is exactly whet the region has seen.

Likewise, we accurately predicted that the Great Lakes region would be “very cold and snowy.” Just last week, International Falls, Minnesota, “the Icebox of the Nation,” hit a record low of -46° F.

(Continued Below)

For the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern States, we called for temperatures to be “very cold,” with average precipitation for Mid-Atlantic states and wet conditions for southern states. Though we correctly predicted that this winter would be brutally cold in these areas — Florida, especially, has seen a series of unseasonable cold snaps that have impacted agriculture in the state — we admittedly dropped the ball on predicting exactly how much snow would fall on these regions. Snowfall has been heavier than expected in the Mid-Atlantic region because the offshore storm track we predicted moved closer to the coast that expected. This is likely due to a La Niña system, as well as a cold, blocking dome of high pressure over Greenland, two short-term phenomena that can’t be properly accounted for in the overall scheme of long-term forecasts.

Toward the West Coast, conditions are milder, just as we said, though La Niña has brought heavy precipitation to California. Our forecast predicted “very wet” weather for the Pacific Northwest, so this storm track shifted south from where our forecast anticipated.

As far as Canada is concerned, overall it’s colder this winter than last year’s record warmth, though still unusually mild over the far northern and western regions (at least “mild” in the sense of normal climatological averages up there). Alaska has had a relatively balmy winter as well.

Over the last few winters, the places that are accustomed to cold and snow have seen milder and less snowy conditions, while places that are normally mild and snow/ice-free have been cold and wintry. Given the upside-down conditions caused by El Niño last year — with warmer-than-normal weather in Canada and the Northern U.S., and heavy snow in typically milder regions — we chose to focus on the return of the cold this year. In that respect, we can stand by our predictions.

Despite any inconsistencies — mainly failing to predict the sheer amounts of snow that would pound the Mid-Atlantic region and Southeast, and being off about the focal point of the wet weather along the West Coast — I still give our outlook a “B/B-” rating for the winter, thus far.

And remember, winter’s not even halfway over, yet!

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1 matt a m { 02.16.11 at 9:11 am }

your forecast are great you cant please every body unless you can move them around every season. keep up the good work. matt a mrgn

2 Dallas Girl { 02.09.11 at 9:44 am }

It is Feb. 9 and Dallas is in the midst of a second ice storm in a one week period. The city was basically shut down due to major ice from last Tuesday to Thursday, then snow on Thursday to Friday. And, the sleet has been falling since 3:00 a.m. Nice to have some winter here but the ice is dangerous.

3 COUNTRYGIRL21441 { 02.09.11 at 9:18 am }


4 dubleott { 01.27.11 at 11:01 am }

Here in Nevada even the local forecasters get it wrong too often. Once a high pressure system moves in all the wet weather rides over the top and hammers the northwest leaving us with sunny skies. Not that I’m complaining since I suffer SAD…I’ve learned to take any forecast with a grain of salt and rely on the satellite animations.

5 Maisie { 01.27.11 at 9:37 am }

“We said New England would be “bitterly cold with average snowfall,” and that is exactly whet the region has seen.” What? Average snowfall? before this last dumping of a foot of snow we were already 6-8 inches OVER seasonal averages! The prediction about the cold, though, was right on.

6 lilredd { 01.27.11 at 7:20 am }

I live in North GA and I have to say predictions for cooler weather was right but predictions for snow was not. We got more snow this year than we have since the blizzard of 1993 and the snowstorm was 3 weeks earlier than predicted.

7 Eric Scher { 01.27.11 at 6:26 am }

Can we expect an early warm spring this year in St. Louis? Will we have a pleasant spring? When can we expect to get relief from the arctic cold and snowy pattern that has persisited this winter?

8 Lynda { 01.26.11 at 4:59 pm }

I live in the st Louis. Area. Your predictions have been right on. You predicted a snow storm the week of the 10th and we got it. You predicted a snow storm from the 20-24th and we got it. My 14 yo son wanted to know how you do it.

9 dlmaddox1 { 01.26.11 at 3:33 pm }

I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains, east side. The Almanac has been dead on so far this winter. The Weather Channel was totally wrong with their long range forcast given last Fall.

10 StoneMaven { 01.24.11 at 10:25 pm }

The entire state of Texas is suffering winter drought and high fire conditions so bad that the Governor has declared a state wide emergency. I think temps have been lower than normal, but I’d really need to compare to previous years’ data to be certain.

11 haleymonley { 01.24.11 at 5:48 pm }

I live in the North Carolina mountains, and even though (as you noted) the Almanac didn’t predict this much snowfall for us, the timing of our winter storms has still been pretty accurate. We’ve just allowed for the fact that due to our elevation, when it forecasts a storm or wintry mix, we may get snow. The forecast has still been useful so far.

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