Generations of American and Canadian readers have used long-range weather forecasts from the Farmers’ Almanac to plan for upcoming seasons.
There’s a good reason for that reliance too. After all, the Farmers’ Almanac explains that it has accurately published long-range weather forecasts since 1818. The key to those forecasts is a set of astronomical and mathematical rules developed by David Young, the Almanac’s first editor.
When reading those long-range forecasts, two questions often come to mind. The first is, what astronomical and mathematical rules are used to create the forecasts? Secondly, how accurate are the forecasts?
We talked to Caleb Weatherbee, the official forecaster for the Farmers’ Almanac, to get answers to those questions. By the way, Weatherbee is a real person. The name “Caleb Weatherbee,” on the other hand, is “actually a pseudonym that has been passed down through generations of Almanac prognosticators and has been used to conceal the true identity of the men and women behind our predictions,” the Farmers’ Almanac told TravelAwaits.
So, let’s get to it. Keep reading to learn how the Farmers’ Almanac creates long-range weather forecasts and how accurate those forecasts turn out to be.
How Long-Range Weather Forecasts Are Made
Remarkably, the astronomical and mathematical rules that have been passed down from editor to editor over the years play a key role in developing the Farmers’ Almanac’s long-range weather forecasts.
“We still use the rules originally set forth by David Young in 1818, however, we have augmented those rules with other methodologies that have been developed in the ensuing 204 years, which take into account studies of solar activity, lunar cycles, and similar weather patterns relating to El Niño and La Niña cycles that have been recorded by NOAA,” Weatherbee told TravelAwaits in an exclusive interview. “It generally takes two to four months to create a long-range forecast for a time frame two years in advance. In fact, in a few months, we’ll begin working on the weather forecasts for 2025.”
Weatherbee went on to say, “We are confident in our formula and our goal is to help people plan and prepare for what may come a year in advance.” That said, Weatherbee does note that, “We do bow down to Mother Nature who is in control of the weather and at times can throw us a curveball.”
In case you also wonder about the viability of a forecast created for all of the U.S. or Canada, Weatherbee explains that the Farmers’ Almanac’s forecasts are just one resource for readers to use.
“We don’t feel we could ever replace readers’ local forecasts since we do the predictions on a broad base,” Weatherbee said. “We have a place in weather forecasting just as the local meteorologist does.”
Accuracy Of Forecasts
So, here’s the real question on people’s minds: how accurate are the Farmers’ Almanac’s weather forecasts?
“Many years ago, Ray Geiger, who was editor of the Farmers’ Almanac for 60 years, was quoted as saying that we are 80 percent. That’s pretty much our “traditional” batting average, although there are variances from year to year — sometimes the accuracy is a bit lower and sometimes it’s a bit higher,” Weatherbee explains. “We always strive for 100 percent accuracy, but Ms. Nature always throws us a few curve balls, or knuckleballs, each year.”
Weatherbee went on to add “We’re always confident in our predictions, especially so when we raise a “red flag” for a period we think will be particularly stormy.”
Interestingly, Weatherbee often writes a review of past forecasts, noting what the forecast got right.
For instance, looking at the forecast for the winter of 2021/2022, “The Farmers’ Almanac predicted winter weather 2021/2022 to be a “frosty flip flop winter” and that’s what we got!” Weatherbee wrote in “Successful Review Of Winter Weather 2021-2022.”
“We also warned our readers of a few big, unusual storms that would come to pass: an early-season nor’easter at the end of October and a late-season blizzard during the final week of April (for parts of Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas),” Weatherbee wrote.
Looking back at January and February 2022, “Truth be told, these two months were certainly more wintery than anything we saw in December, and pretty much vindicated our regional forecasts of “Chilled to the Bone,” “Numb’s the Word,” and “Just Shovelin’ Along,” Weatherbee wrote.
Weatherbee has also pointed out the accuracy of other winters. Consider, for example, Weatherbee’s look back at the winter season of 2020/2021.
“Blizzard isn’t a term we throw around lightly, especially in our long-range forecasts. But last year, we felt confident enough to use that eight-letter word in February 2021, warning folks in the northeast to be on the lookout for up to one to two feet of accumulation,” Weatherbee wrote in “Review Of Winter Weather 2020-2021.” “And boy, did it snow! A slow-moving nor’easter dropped snow on the entire northeast region from February 1 to 3, 2021.”
If you’d like to check the accuracy of the Farmers’ Almanac’s summer forecast or start planning for winter, be sure to read: