ANNAPOLIS -- Most people don't keep it hanging by a nail on the outhouse door anymore, but they still consult the "Old Farmer's Almanac" for annual predictions on winter weather.

The prediction for this winter is cold with lots of snow, assistant editor Debra Walsh said Monday.

According to the almanac, the Middle Atlantic Coast states, including Maryland, will see a cold and wet November followed by a cold, sunny and dry December.

The other weather prognosticator, the National Weather Service, is predicting a cooler, wetter period for September, October and November.

The prediction is based upon current atmospheric conditions, said Edward O'Lenic, a meteorologist with the Climate Analysis Center in Camp Springs.

"We've got 40 to 50 years of data, and we correlate what's going on now with what's gone on in the past," he said.

O'Lenic said he finds the almanac interesting, but doesn't think weather can be reasonably predicted beyond a 90-day period.

"My wife used to give me one every year as a gag gift," he said.

According to the almanac, a snowstorm will close out 1990. January will be very cold and snowy, with above-average precipitation. The pattern will continue into late February. After that, the weather will become warm, sunny and drier, Walsh said.

The predictions are prepared based on sunspot activity observed by Richard Head, climatologist for the almanac.

To make his predictions, Head compares this year's sunspot activity with data from previous years and historical records, Walsh said.

The 224-page, 199th anniversary edition of the almanac will be available in bookstores, newsstands and feed stores this week.