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Monday, September 1, 2014

Farmers' Almanac expects cold winter

by Traci Eatherton, WLJ Managing Editor

The 198-year-old Farmers’ Almanac got it right last year in predicting the winter that just wouldn’t stop. With winter sneaking up, and leaves starting to change colors already, dj vu is setting in. And according to the Farmers’ Almanac, we just may make history again.

Both the Old Farmers’ Almanac and the Farmers’ Almanac are predicting two-thirds of the country will experience below-average temperatures and harsh winter conditions in 2015.

“Shivery and shovelry are back. We’re calling for some frigid conditions, bitter conditions,” said Managing Editor Sandi Duncan.

“Winter will bring a frosty bite and next summer will be its mirror opposite, so get ready for a one-two punch,” said Janice Stillman, Editor of The Old Farmers’ Almanac, in a press release.

The latest edition forecasts colder-than-normal and wetter-thanusual weather for three-quarters of the country east of the Rocky Mountains. Drought-stricken California, along with the Pacific Northwest, will see normal precipitation and cool temperatures this winter, the almanac said.

The Farmers’ Almanac uses a secret formula, to the ire of modern science, based on sunspots, planetary positions and lunar cycles for its long-range weather forecasts.

The Farmers’ Almanac, which accurately forewarned of the bitterly cold and snow-filled winter last year, just released its 2015 edition and official winter weather outlook.

It’s not for the faint of heart. According to the 198th edition of the Farmers’ Almanac, “The winter of 2014–2015 will see below-normal temperatures for about three-quarters of the nation, with the most frigid areas occurring in and around the Northern Plains into the Great Lakes.” The new edition, which hits store shelves officially on August 25, 2014, states that “no region will see prolonged spells of above-normal temperatures."

Not good news for the winter-weary. The almanac, which has been predicting the weather for nearly 200 years, suggests that there will be a very cold outbreak during the final week of January into the beginning of February, going as far as to state that temperatures could drop to 40 below over the Northern Plains. Yes, “more shivery and shovelry” conditions are on tap for the winter ahead.

“While we don’t think the winter will be as extreme as last year,” reveals Editor Peter Geiger, “we do believe that it’s going to be another one for the record books.”

The Farmers’ Almanac outlook includes a very stormy one for the eastern third of the country, with copious amounts of snow and rain, especially during the first 10 days of January and the first week in February near the Atlantic Coast.

Near-normal precipitation is expected for the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest states, and Northern Plains. Below-normal precipitation values are forecast for the Southwest states as well as the Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes. The Central and Southern Plains are in what the almanac is describing as the “above average precipitation area.”

For the first time in its 198-year history, the Farmers’ Almanac did put a small disclaimer near its winter outlook. At the time of printing for the 2015 edition, the National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration issued an official El Nio warning. As Caleb Weatherbee, Farmers’ Almanac weather prognosticator notes, “an El Nio could result in more rain this winter for drought-stricken California and southern states, and a milder winter for the nation’s frigid northern tier.”

This could affect the almanac’s long-range outlook, but both its editors and Weatherbee stand by their winter forecast of more “shivery and shovelry,” and suggest readers stock up on firewood, sweaters and hot cocoa for another long, cold winter.

Modern meteorologists missed the mark on last year’s long-term forecast. The national Climate Prediction Center had forecasted a strong likelihood of above-normal temperatures from last November through January.

“Not one of our better forecasts,” Mike Halpert, the Climate Prediction Center’s Acting Director, said at the time. There’s still no good explanation as to why the polar vortex moved so deep into the U.S., he said.

The almanac’s editor, Geiger, also got his Super Bowl forecast right. The almanac forecast a snowstorm Feb. 1-3 in New Jersey. It was 49 degrees at the start of the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, but a snowstorm created havoc the following morning.

But the almanac was off in some areas, with the Pacific Northwest wetter, and California and the Southwest drier than projected.

While the almanacs are sharing their predictions, modern meteorologists are also weighing in.

September and October are forecast to be wetter than average from southern California through the Four Corner states and into the central Plains, according to Paul Walsh, with The Weather Channel. Below average precipitation is expected along the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.

Parts of Colorado and New Mexico saw well above average rainfall in July and this trend may continue, according to Walsh.

“Some relief may be on the way for drought-stricken parts of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and northwestern Texas,” Walsh said.

After a wet June, much of Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri saw below average rainfall in July and rain is expected to return for the September through October period which will help to ease the drought in those states.

The National Weather Service 6- to 10-day outlook for September 2-6 calls for near- to above-normal temperatures across much of the contiguous U.S., except for cooler-than-normal conditions over the northwestern quarter of the nation.

Meanwhile, above-normal rainfall over the eastern half of the U.S. and along the Canadian border will contrast with drier-than-normal weather from the Pacific Northwest and Great Basin southeastward into the Four Corners and western Texas.

Long term, according to the Weather Center, the major weather event that will affect the 2014 -2015 winter season will be the development of an El Nio. This weather event will largely determine the number of winter storms, the amount of snowfall as well as temperatures across the United States.

While they admit that it’s a bit early to predict what the 2014-15 winter will really look like, they have some preliminary thoughts.

For the Pacific Northwest: A warmer than normal winter with around average precipitation is currently favored, due to the state of the Pacific Ocean and choice analog year. Snowfall is projected to be slightly above normal.

For the Southwest: A warmer than normal winter with above average precipitation is currently favored, due to expected high pressure along the West Coast and an enhanced subtropical jet stream. Snowfall is projected to be around average.

For the North Plains: A cooler than normal winter with average precipitation is currently favored, due to the expected Pacific set-up and choice analog years. Snowfall is projected to be around average.

For the South Plains: A cooler than normal winter with slightly below average precipitation is currently favored. Snowfall is projected to be slightly above average.

For the Midwest and Great Lakes: A slightly cooler than normal winter with around average precipitation is currently favored. Snowfall is projected to be below normal.

For the Ohio Valley: A slightly cooler than normal winter with slightly below average precipitation is currently favored. Snowfall is projected to be slightly below normal.

For the Southeast: A cooler than normal winter with wetter than normal precipitation is currently favored. Snowfall is projected to be above normal.

For the Mid-Atlantic: A cooler than normal winter with above average precipitation is currently favored. Snowfall is projected to be above normal.

For the Northeast: A cooler than normal winter with above average precipitation is currently favored. Snowfall is projected to be above normal.

So in a nut shell, it’s never too early to stock up on the long-johns and mittens! — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor

 
 


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