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‘Above-normal snowfall’: How accurate is the Farmers’ Almanac forecast?

Posted at 11:17 PM, Aug 25, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — The Farmers’ Almanac extended forecast for winter 2020-2021 has been titled ‘Winter of the Great Divide’.

“Cold and snowy in the north. Drought in the west. And everything crazy in between!” the almanac’s website reads.

Utah falls into the prediction of an ‘above-normal snowfall.'

“We’ll do it by region,” said Farmers’ Almanac editor Peter Geiger, explaining the process that has been in place for more than 200 years. “We’ll do it in 3-day segments, and if it’s a hurricane, it’s a hurricane, if it’s a big blizzard, it’s a blizzard and if it’s nice weather, it’s nice weather.”

Geiger has been the almanac’s editor for 47 years. He’s been told by those who track the long-range forecasting that they’re somewhere in the ballpark of between 75-85 percent accurate over the years.

“I’m hopeful that we’re going to be right. I think we will be right — I’m confident we’ll be right,” said Geiger with a smile.

While the weather section is only a part of the almanac, he recognizes the significance for so many people.

“It’s there, it’s part of the almanac. I think people look for us with what’s the winter going to be like, what’s the summer going to be like, when you’re vacationing or we’re going to get married, what’s the weather going to be on a certain day next July," he said.

To meteorologists, forecasting long-range can be difficult and lack accuracy. The National Weather Service uses patterns and data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Predication Center.

“As a meteorologist, it’s kind of a curiosity, something that’s interesting to look at,” said Monica Traphagan, a meteorologist who has been with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City for 15 years. “I don’t know it (Farmers’) to be particularly scientific; we don’t use it with our outlooks.”

While the almanac is calling for above-normal snowfall, Traphagan says their extended forecast calls for above average temperatures with average precipitation from December to February.

“It’s (Farmers’) something that’s interesting to look at, something that’s interesting to think about. But as far as long-range outlooks go, probably not particularly accurate,” said Traphagan. “I don’t know that any long-range outlook is extremely accurate, but because there’s a demand for it, we certainly put it out there.”