The blizzard conditions that belted the Middle Atlantic states this past weekend, bringing things to a standstill from Virginia to Philadelphia was not a surprise to those working at the Farmers’ Almanac. This famous publication, which has been churning out long-range weather forecasts annually since 1818, promised a blizzard in the Northeastern part of the country this month. Mother Nature came through and delivered one, though a little off schedule.
“Our long range prognosticator, Caleb Weatherbee rarely predicts such an extreme event as a 1 to 2-foot blizzard in his long-range forecasts,” noted Sandi Duncan, Managing Editor of the Farmers’ Almanac, “but this was a case that ranked ‘high’ in terms of a degree of confidence; so he (Weatherbee) insisted we promote it both in his summation of the highlights in 2010, as well as on the regular forecast page for February.”? ?But Weatherbee’s forecast called for the storm to strike between February 12 and 15th, and for the blizzard conditions to be concentrated in New England (although heavy snow was also forecast for the Middle Atlantic region as well).
So why the discrepancy? “El Niño,” said Duncan. “We didn’t factor El Niño into our long-range forecast because it tends to be unpredictable when you’re compiling a weather outlook more than two years in advance.” El Niño is a disruption of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific, which has important consequences for weather around the globe. “This one is particularly strong,” Duncan commented, “enough to jar the long-range schedule published in the Farmers’ Almanac to some degree.” As a result, projected storm tracks may be somewhat off as well as the timing. “But we had a high degree of confidence that a blizzard would hit the Northeast US near the middle of the month.” This prediction was made two years ago.
Another Storm Brewing?
The 2010 Farmers’ Almanac forewarned people in the Northeast of two major snowstorms in February. This week there is another snow event predicted for the Northeast, which was alluded to in the Almanac’s outlook, but thrown off by a few days by the unusually strong El Nino.
For those who don’t care for wintry weather, you might not care for what the Farmers’ Almanac has to say regarding the rest of the winter. “We see frequent stormy weather into March with heavy rains and wet snows. And, according to Caleb Weatherbee, who utilizes a secret long range formula, the coming days and weeks will see at least three-quarters of the nation enduring unseasonably cold weather with only the far western US experiencing near or above normal temperatures.
“Ironically,” said Duncan, “it’s going to be unusually mild over the Pacific Northwest, including British Columbia, Canada where the 2010 Olympics will be held in Vancouver.” “Maybe,” she added, “they should have held the Olympics in Montreal.”