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Posted at 02:50 PM ET, 09/26/2012

Farmers’ Almanacs predict cold winter for East, warm weather in the West

Both the Farmers’ Almanac (FA) and Old Farmer’s Almanac (OFA) have released their winter outlooks. The common theme: cold east of the Rockies and warm in the West.

2013 winter outlook from the Farmers’ Almanac (Farmers’ Almanac)
“We think it will be a winter of contraries, as if Old Man Winter were cutting the country in half,” writes the Farmers’ Almanac. “The eastern half of the country will see plenty of cold and snow. The western half will experience relatively warm and dry condition.”

The Old Farmer’s Almanac agrees.

“The 2013 Almanac says that temperatures will be much colder this winter from the East Coast westward to a line from the Dakotas to Texas,” the OFA writes. “In every place west of this line, except for portions of the Desert Southwest, temperatures will be warmer than last winter.”

What about snow? The FA is a bit more bullish on snow prospects in the East compared to the OFA.

“Most eastern states – as far south as the Gulf Coast – will see snowier than normal conditions,” the FA writes.

The OFA’s snow outlook in the East is more qualified. While it forecasts above normal snow from El Paso to Detroit to Virginia Beach - covering much of the Midwest and South, it counters: “Snowfall be will below normal in most other locations...”

Washington, D.C., mid-Atlantic region highlights

Of the two almanacs, the OFA provides the most detail for the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore metro region on its website (without a fee) .

It calls for colder than normal conditions with near normal snowfall.

“The coldest periods will be from Christmas through early January and in early and mid-February,” the OFA writes. “The snowiest periods will be in mid-December, just before Christmas, and in mid- to late February.”

Unless you pay a subscription fee, the FA only offers this nugget: “We are “red flagging” February 12–15 and March 20–23 for major coastal storms along the Atlantic seaboard; storms bringing strong winds and heavy precipitation.”

Last winter’s performance

Forecasts developed by the OFA and FA for the winter of 2011-2012 both struggled compared to reality.

Certified consulting meteorologist Jan Null compared the winter 2011-2012 temperature and precipitation outlook of the OFA compared to the actual data from NOAA. The results aren’t pretty for the most part.

Left: Temperature difference from average last winter. Right: Precipitation difference from average last winter. (NOAA/Jan Null)
Null noted the OFA correctly called for warm conditions in western Washington state. Aside from that, temperature forecasts sharply differed from reality.

“The OFA winter temperature forecast did poorly with the above normal temperatures from the northern Plains and Great Lakes into New England,” Null said.

The OFA did marginally better in its precipitation forecast. It correctly predicted wet conditions in the Pacific Northwest, and dry conditions in south Florida and Great Basin, Null said.

But, “[The OFA] missed the very dry conditions in California and New England and along the Atlantic Seaboard,” Null said.

Winter 2011-2012 forecasts from the Farmers’ Almanac (top) and Old Farmer’s Almanac (bottom) (Farmers’ Almanac and Old Farmer's Almanac)
Null didn’t examine the FA’s forecast, but it appears to have faired slightly better, overall - compared to the OFA. It badly missed the forecast in the Upper Midwest and the East, but was in the ballpark in the West and mid-South.

Overall usefulness of these outlooks

I’ll repeat what I wrote last year when discussing almanac outlooks: “The bottom line is that these kinds of almanac predictions are fun to review, sometimes on-target, but, until they prove otherwise, of dubious scientific or decision-making value.”

Related: It’s Old Farmer’s Almanac Time

By  |  02:50 PM ET, 09/26/2012

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