There’s a chill in the air. Fall is around the corner, the Farmers’ Almanac has released its winter outlook, and the leaves are starting to turn color. Yet a question remains hot— does the Farmers’ Almanac alter its long-range weather formula to take climate change and global warming into consideration?
Here are some questions and answers that were recently posed to Caleb Weatherbee, the Farmers’ Almanac Weather Prognosticator and the only keeper of the well-guarded and top-secret weather formula the Almanac has been using for 192 years:
Q: Does the climate change we’re experiencing or global warming make your job harder with the forecasting? Is it changing the way you formulate the predictions?
Except for short-term events that could alter our long-range forecast, such as a major volcanic eruption or a very significant El Nino (as was the case during the winter of 1997-98), we pretty much stick to the same methodology in our issuance of our long-range weather outlook. And even in the wake of a major volcanic eruption or El Nino, we would not alter our forecast, but we might caution our readers that thanks to the short-term effects of such phenomena, it could upset our published predictions to a certain degree.
Q: What are the major factors the Almanac considers when making weather prognostications from year to year?
The Farmers’ Almanac predictions are based on a very old but effective formula that takes a variety of factors into consideration. This formula is top-secret, but has proven to be accurate almost 80-85% of the time. This isn’t to say we haven’t refined the formula at all, but we do not really alter it based on climate changes or global warming.
For any given year, the major factors we look at closely can vary. Sunspots, for example, occur on a general 11-year cycle. So while for one specific year the forecast might lean heavily on the number of sunspots (or lack of any spots), that could be much less of a weather factor five or six years later when solar activity might be significantly different. We closely monitor the changing distance of the Moon relative to Earth, as well certain lunar cycles. And lastly, we follow a list of rules developed by David Young, the first editor of the Farmers’ Almanac, who called them his “weather canon.” This canon might be regarded as our famous and closely guarded “secret formula” that dates back nearly 200 years
Q: Does the Farmers’ Almanac notice any effects of climate change in weather patterns?
Surprisingly, we really haven’t noticed any effects of climate change, at least from the standpoint of our issuance of annual forecasts. We have, however, noted over the long-term the seemingly short-term memory of many in regard to weather events. You want to talk about wild weather?
Look back on the decade of the 1930s when it seemed like weather records were being broken almost every other week across the U.S. That was the decade of the great dust bowl in the Plains States; the decade where New York saw their temperature drop to their all-time low of 15 below zero in 1934, and then climb to their all time high of 106 less than two years later in July, 1936!
How about the decade of the 1950s, which was noteworthy for being exceptionally hot with major hurricanes in the heavily populated Northeast in 1954 (Carol and Edna), 1955 (Diane), and 1960 (Donna)?
In the 1960s, a number of reputable scientists were writing papers in science journals speculating that we were possibly headed toward another ice age . . .
Through it all, we here at the Farmers’ Almanac have just continued to keep doing what we always have been doing. To us, we recognize that some of our human behavior should be more responsible when it comes to this planet we’re living on, but overall, the theories of climate change and global warming have not affected the way we make our forecasts.