When the Farmer’s Almanac predicts snow for New Jersey
Our own meteorologist Dan Zarrow is predicting a cool lead-up to Thanksgiving weekend, with a bunch of below-normal-temperature days ahead.
But if you want to look further out — and dispense with all of that science and discipline and fact-based analysis (pshaw) — you can turn to the Farmer's Almanac for an idea of when it'll get really cold in New Jersey.
It's predicting a "cold and snowy" winter in New Jersey, saying "from the Great Lakes into the Northeast, snowier-than-normal conditions are expected. We can hear the skiers, boarders, and snowmobilers cheering from here!"
So ... um ... yippie? Time to start watching the New Jersey 101.5 Winter Weather Alert closings/delays page with eagle eyes?
The almanac is also "red-flagging the 2018 dates of Jan. 20 to 23, Feb. 4 to 7 and 16 to 19, and March 1 to 3 and 20 to 23 along the Atlantic Seaboard for some heavy precipitation. Good news for skiers and snow enthusiasts, but for those looking to build sandcastles, not-so-good news, but a good time to book that tropical getaway."
So how seriously should you take this? I dunno. Maybe ask the Farmer's Almanac's chief rival ... the Old Farmer's Almanac. Totally different thing.
For what's left of November, it's forecasting snow to show up in the final week of the month. It thinks there will be snow just after Christmas, too. Overall, it predicts a slightly warm December, and sats real winter weather won't show up January and February.
Waitagoshdarn minute — those two forecasts don't sound very similar at all.
Zarrow — you know, the guy who uses actual modeling to predict weather for the near future, and is always cautious about over-promising weather impacts too far ahead of time — told us back in August, "we have enough trouble forecasting 5 days in advance, nevermind 5 months!" He's no fan of seasonal forecasts and suspects many who try are "stretching the science."
"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," Dan wrote at the time. "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.'"
He said the almanac (at that time, he was talking specifically about the first one we mentioned, not the second) missed the boat pretty significantly over the last two winters, and its "daily forecasts are extraordinarily vague and rarely correct." Not a great vote of confidence from a guy who watches the weather closely.
Dan's not the only one who's skeptical. Time looked into the matter in 2015, and noted the Old Farmer's Almanac says its formula involves "a complicated mathematical formula devised by founder Robert B. Thomas in 1792 that takes sun spots, planetary positions and tidal patterns into account."
When Time asked J. Marshall Shepherd, a former president of the American Meteorological Society, about all of that (sunspots?), he chuckled.
“I can tell you it’s not common meteorological practice (to use space weather as an indicator), based on my years of experience and research,” he said. “Modern meteorological forecasting is based on models representing the atmosphere and physics over time. There is an inherent limit [to forecasting] of about 7 to 10 days.”
So what's the weather going to be like this winter? Sorry, if you really want to know a month or two ahead ... the best you'll get here is "beats us." But keep an eye on Dan's blog for what to expect in the coming days — he'll tell you what he knows, what he thinks, what he's not sure of and what goes into figuring all of that out.
And that's a lot more than any almanac will do.
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