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On The Money: Farmers’ Almanac Accuracy

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Major Weather Events Accurately Predicted by the Farmers’ Almanac

2018

In our 2018 edition, which came out in August of 2017, we red-flagged January 20-23, February 4-7, February 16-19, and March 1-3 and March 20-23 as time frames for major coastal storms along the Atlantic Seaboard to bring strong winds and heavy precipitation. So how did the winter play out?

January 4-7, 2018 –While it wasn’t one of the dates we “red flagged,” we predicted that a storm would “sweep across Pennsylvania and New York, and bring gusty winds and heavy precipitation” to Zone 1 (Northeast) and Zone 2 (Great Lakes, Ohio Valley). On January 4, the term “bomb cyclone” was introduced to our vernacular due to an intense storm that hit the Northeast (also called Winter Storm “Grayson”).  The long winter was just getting started…

February 4–7, 2018 –We called for snowfalls in the one- to two-foot range for Zones 1 (Northeast & New England) and 2 (Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, Midwest) and for Zone 3 (Southeast), we said “a Nor’easter brings widespread heavy snow possibly exceeding 1 foot for the Virginias, mountains of western North Carolina. Elsewhere, showery with heavy rains, gusty winds.” And indeed, a storm (“Liam”) brought a mess of snow and ice to the Plains, South, Midwest, and Northeast on February 7th. In the aftermath, we found references that over a foot of snow fell in parts of New York and New England. Talk about “spot on!”

On February 16–18, 2018 –We called for a winter storm to sweep in from the Midwest “bringing significant snowfall, 6 inches possible for Presidents’ Day weekend.” And Winter Storm “Noah” delivered, dropping snow up and down the Eastern Seaboard on February 17th (the Saturday of Presidents’ Day weekend). While it didn’t come in from the Midwest, it did create havoc for much of the New England. Maine saw total accumulations of about 10 inches.

March 1–3, 2018–During this timeframe, we said Zone 1 would see “another Northeast snowstorm” and Zone 3 (Southeast) was in for widespread heavy snow with accumulation of 12 inches for the Virginias, and mountains of North Carolina. Elsewhere “showery/heavy rains, gusty winds.”  Sure enough, so-called Winter Storm “Riley” became an intense nor’easter and introduced us to the term “bombogenesis,” which went off along the New England coast on March 2-3. It produced damaging winds and coastal flooding from New York and New England to North Carolina, following a quick burst of snow in the upper Midwest and Great Lakes. The intense storm knocked down trees and power lines, causing damage throughout the Washington D.C. area up into the Northeast, and left over 2 million without power.

March 20–23, 2018–We called for “a major storm bring strong winds and heavy precipitation” to Zone 1. And on March 22 the fourth nor’easter (“Winter Storm Toby”) in less than three weeks struck, bringing heavy snow and some winds to the Northeast. While the calendar said “spring,” it was clear winter wasn’t going anywhere.

Summer 2018: We called for a warmer-than-normal summer for most of the nation with our “Full Steamy Ahead” forecast, and we were on the money, especially in the Northeast. It was best summed up by The Washington Post, “From Boston to Hartford and Albany to Portland, population centers in the Northeast United States have staggered through unheard of humidity levels in the summer. August has been unforgiving, almost from start to finish. For long stretches, the moisture-laden air over the region has felt more like Florida, as if you could cut it with a knife.”

2017

What We Predicted:
Zone 6 January 8th-11th. Severe Pacific disturbances move inland, bringing heavy rain to the coast and valley sections, and heavy snows to the higher terrain areas (Olympic, Cascade, and Bitterroot Mountains).

What actually happened:
Zone 6 – January 10-11: Oregon was struck with a storm that brought heavy snow to areas around Portland. The count: 8 inches at Portland International Airport and 11.8 inches downtown, making it the biggest snowstorm in about 20 years. It ranks fifth for the most snowfall at the airport in a 24-hour period, according to the weather service.

What We Predicted:
Zone 1 – February 16th-19th. Near-record cold envelops the Northeast and New England. Small, but intense storm develops near the Virginia Capes and delivers a heavy snowstorm with strong winds from Maryland and Delaware northeast into Southern New England; some locations receive 1 to 2 feet of accumulation. Much lighter snow or only flurries farther north.

What actually happened:
Zone 1 – February 12-13: Blizzard/nor’easter strikes the northeast. While we were a little late with this call, it was very close.

2016

The Farmers’ Almanac predicted that a storm would move along the Appalachian Trail in the February 24-29 time frame. Sure enough, on the 24th, a moderately strong storm was centered near Paducah, Kentucky and slid northeast to near the border of New York and Quebec by the following day. This same system brought snow and wind to the Great Lakes and Midwest. Our readers in Ohio sent us thank-you emails on February 25th when our forecast for February 24-29th called for “Becoming stormy with snow.”

In October we predicted that on the 28th-31st, it would be “turning stormy along Atlantic Seaboard, rain, widespread flooding; some wet snow in higher elevations of New England.” And sure enough, on October 28th, things turned very stormy Chilly temperatures set the stage for snow across portions of the interior Northeast on October 26-28, 2016 as a low-pressure system moved through the region. For some, it was their first snow of the season. It soon turned to heavy rain.

And who can forget the snowstorms in Colorado? We said that on March 24 – 27, a “major storm evolves over the southern Rockies,” and while a day early, on March 23rd, folks in Colorado woke up to a major storm with areas getting 1 to 2 feet, some areas received almost 3 feet (and their local weather called for 3 inches). We got emails thanking us for helping people prepare for this one!

2015

The Farmers’ Almanac forecast for wetter-than-normal summer conditions over the Southeast rang true, and our dire outlook for dry conditions to continue in the Southwest have also been spot on. 

Farmers’ Almanac predicted that the winter of 2014-15 would see below-normal temperatures for about three-quarters of the nation. We called for lots of “shivery,” but we may have been a bit overzealous in terms of forecasting overall coverage of the cold air. While our prediction of very cold conditions came true in the East, the West was unusually warm.

2014

Polar Vortex Winter! Farmers’ Almanac’s predictions of a “piercing, biting, and bitterly” cold winter came true.

Snowbowl! When the 2014 edition of the Farmers’ Almanac hit the newsstands on August 26, 2013, almost immediately a rumor went viral that we were forecasting a blizzard for the Super Bowl (but as you can see, it was a rumor that – like most rumors – was not correct). And although we had actually forecast the potential for a storm within the 72-hour timeframe for Feb. 1st to 3rd, many people were concerned that forecast was valid only for the three or so hours that the game would be played. However, it was only eight hours after the big game ended, that a Winter Storm Warning was in effect and moderate-to-heavy snow was falling. By 8 a.m. on Monday the 3rd, streets were a slushy mess and flights in and out of the three major New York airports were either delayed or canceled. Eight inches of snow ultimately fell on East Rutherford, New Jersey, the site of MetLife Stadium, which ironically had been a balmy 49° at kickoff. It was literally the calm before the storm. Or as ESPN noted: “The NFL dodged a blizzard.”

Our very best forecast in 2014, however, was the winter storm that we red-flagged for February 12th-15th. It brought a wide variety of snow, ice and rain from the Southeast on up into the Northeast U.S. and was rated a Category 3 or major on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS). Summer accuracy we did forewarn of hot and dry conditions in the Southwest.

2013

The Farmers’ Almanac predicted a severe heat wave along the East Coast and Great Lakes during the summer of 2013, and those predictions came true in July, with extreme heat wilting much of that region.

The Farmers’ Almanac predicted that the spring of 2013 would be unusually wet and cool across much of the U.S. and Canada. In the Northern and Central Plains and Western Great Lakes, April of that year was very cold, white, and wet that meteorologists don’t expect to see it happen again for another 50 or 100 years.

For mid-February, 2013 the Farmers’ Almanac forecast a “major Northeast snowstorm” with accumulations exceeding one foot and accompanied by strong winds causing blowing snow. And indeed, a clipper system and coastal storm merged to create blizzard conditions in parts of the Northeast. The storm dumped record-setting snowfall from New York to Maine. The highest snowfall total of 40 inches was reported in Hamden, CT. Strong winds (a gust of 83 mph was reported in Falmouth, MA) brought whiteout conditions to much of New England and whipped up waves that carved a 1,600-foot-wide hole in the barrier beach near Chatham, MA. In New York, the storm left more than one hundred cars stranded along the Long Island Expressway while in Connecticut there were reports of over a dozen collapsed roofs due to the snow. The storm left some 650,000 customers without power and resulted in a dozen deaths.

2012

The Farmers’ Almanac predicted that the summer of 2012 would be exceptionally hot in many regions of the U.S., and July 2012 proved to be the hottest month ever recorded in U.S. history.

The Farmers’ Almanac forewarned of a tropical disturbance for the Southeast during late June, 2012, and tropical storm Debby hit on June 24th.

The Farmers’ Almanac accurately predicted a wet winter of 2011-12 for Texas. Heavy precipitation helped to alleviate their severe drought, shrinking the total area affected from 43.3% in early December to 14.8% by the end of February.

The Farmers’ Almanac called for a balmy winter for the Southern and Eastern U.S. in 2011-12. For New England, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware, the winter ranked as either the second or third warmest winter in 117 years of available records. Massachusetts tied for its warmest February. It was the second warmest winter on record for Boston and New York; the fourth warmest for Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.

The Farmers’ Almanac once again predicted a major snowstorm would hit the Rockies and Plains in the opening days of February 2012. February 2nd—4th saw a very heavy snowstorm that blanketed Colorado and Nebraska. Denver set a new snowstorm record for February of 15.9 inches.

2011

The Farmers’ Almanac accurately predicted the major winter storm that brought blizzard conditions to parts of the Southern Rockies and Central Plains on December 19th and 20th, 2011.

The Farmers’ Almanac predicted a major storm for the East Coast between October 28th and 31st, 2011. On October 29th, a deepening storm system moved up the Eastern seaboard, interacted with an unusually chilly airmass, and snowflakes began to fall. It was a stormy period for the Northeast U.S., with copious rain and even snow over higher elevations and northern New England.

The 2011 Farmers’ Almanac also forecast a hurricane threat for the Southeastern U.S. at the end of August, which came true in the form of Hurricane Irene.

The Farmers’ Almanac predicted that the spring of 2011 would be exceptionally wet, and that parts of the U.S. would see a very active tornado season. This proved to be true when flooding overwhelmed the Mississippi River Valley through several states, and killer tornadoes battered the Southeast and Midwest.

The Farmers’ Almanac accurately predicted a major snowstorm for the Northeastern and Great Lakes states for early February 2011. At that time, heavy snow did pound the Northeastern U.S., while a blizzard shut down Chicago.

2010

We predicted the summer of 2010 would be a scorcher, with hotter than normal temperatures across most areas of the U.S. and Canada through July and August. Only the Pacific Northwest was forecast to have near-normal temperatures. And that’s exactly how the summer panned out, with the mercury creeping up near, or even beyond, 100° F in areas that rarely, if ever, experience such extreme temperatures.

It’s not often that the Farmers’ Almanac long-range forecast calls for extreme events such as blizzards with two or more feet of accumulation, but that’s exactly what weather prognosticator Caleb Weatherbee saw when he consulted his data for the second week of February 2010. He was so confident, in fact, that he insisted we highlight it both in our general weather outlook and in the detailed forecast for February. As it happened, a major storm system, which has since come to be known as “Snowmageddon,” slammed Mid-Atlantic states during not one, but two blizzards over the course of a single week. The snow was so deep, it crippled whole cities, shutting down the federal government as well as cities, both large and small, in much of the Eastern half of the country. February 11-12 saw a remarkable southern snowstorm that buried cities in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. Dallas-Fort Worth recorded 12.5-inches of snow, making it their greatest 24-hour snowfall on record. Though Weatherbee’s prediction was a couple of days off, thanks to a strong El Niño system, his certainty that a major blizzard would hit in early February was right on!

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

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