It's August... Why are we talking about winter and snow already?

Sigh, it's that time of year. The new annual edition of the Farmers' Almanac has been published, containing their infamous Winter Outlook. Have a look:

2017-2018 Winter Outlook from the Farmers' Almanac. (
2017-2018 Winter Outlook from the Farmers' Almanac. (

Well whaddya know, it's going to be cold and it's going to snow in New Jersey this winter! Seriously though, the almanac predicts below normal temperatures and above normal snowfall for the 2017-18 winter season.

Do you buy it? I certainly don't — we have enough trouble forecasting 5 days in advance, nevermind 5 months! I'll give you four excellent reasons why you should take the Farmers' Almanac forecasts with a very large grain of road salt:

1.) Seasonal Forecasting

New Jersey Snow
Michelle Eulne

If you follow my forecasts and my weather blog regularly, you know I am not a fan of long-range/seasonal forecasting. Part of my angst is spurred by the fact that long-range forecasting is not my personal area of expertise.

Furthermore, I think a lot of my colleagues attempt to "stretch the science" in trying to provide too much detail, too much insight, and too much confidence in a winter/summer/hurricane season forecast. There are absolutely some well-documented signals and teleconnections out there: large-scale atmospheric circulations, ocean currents, ENSO, sunspot activity, etc. But how they interact, and how they specifically affect New Jersey? Shaky, at best.

2.) Mysterious Methodology

Cover from the 2018 Farmers' Almanac (Amazon)
Cover from the 2018 Farmers' Almanac (Amazon)

Of course, the Farmers' Almanac is a whole different animal. Maybe their forecasts are based in some facet of science and research. Or maybe their forecasts come from a dartboard. They do not share their exact methodology, so we don't really know why and how they come up with their winter outlook.

Oh, you can get a taste of their "weather formula," but only if you buy the book! Makes it really hard to trust such a "forecast".

3.) Past Performance

The 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 almanac forecasts looked very familiar to this newly published 2017-2018 outlook, calling for cold and snowy winters.

As you may recall, the past two winters were actually quiet and mild, with only one big snowstorm apiece. Poor performance over the past two seasons does not bode well for this year's winter outlook.

Additionally, the almanac's daily forecasts are extraordinarily vague and rarely correct. Maybe they'll "nail" one storm each season. But as you know, weather happens 365+ days a year, not just once a season. They're the only "weather forecasters" in the world who can get away with calling for a "cold and snowy winter" and grading themselves with "80 to 90 percent accuracy". Please.

4.) The One-Storm Philosophy

March 2017 Snowstorm
Gene Mikulka in Mine Hill

I am a big believer that it only takes a single major snowstorm to make for a memorable winter season. (Case in point: The Blizzard of 2016.) Thus, a forecast for the entire winter season is kind of irrelevant.

Bottom line... The Farmers' Almanac is not a scientific journal. They're not accountable to anyone for producing any sort of accurate forecast. It's fluff, and it's fun. If you love winter, feel free to preemptively get excited. If you hate winter, feel free to preemptively gripe.

Of course, if you're looking for an accurate weather forecast... You might want to look somewhere other than a 199 year old book.

Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist, Heat Miser, and Snow Miser for Townsquare Media New Jersey. When he's not reviewing meteorological tabloids, he's tracking your latest forecast and realtime weather updates on Facebook and Twitter.

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