Fun with Weather Almanacs

What's that sound I hear? Is it the crickets chirping due to our fairly quiet weather pattern this week? Or are the geese gearing up to head south before temperatures really start to tumble? How about the stampede of folks to the store to pick up the latest editions of the Farmers' Almanac and Old Farmers' Almanac? Well, the first question can be answered with a resounding yes, since high pressure will dominate our weather pattern here in the Badger State for the next week, providing plenty of sunshine and comfortable afternoons. As for answers to the second and third questions, I would say not so much.

No less, every year around this time when the "Almanac(s)" release their forecasts for the winter ahead, folks typically ask us what we think of their prognostications. For starters, let me just say, contrary to their stealth analysis of sun spots and other planetary positions, along with super secret mathematical equations, the forecasts they put out for a year in advance are no more accurate that of the Ground Hog. Granted Punxy Phil and Jimmy in Sun Prairie have a 50-50 shot of being right, which in hindsight might be giving these almanacs too much credit.

So in this investigative weather blog, let's see how well the Farmers' and Old Farmers' Almanac have been doing with their forecasts for North Central Wisconsin.

Winter 2008-09


Old Farmer's Almanac: Winter will be 2 degrees above normal with below normal precipitation and snowfall. Record cold in 1st half of December, a mild January, and other cold spells in February. Snowiest from Christmas to New Years, mid-January and March.

Farmers' Almanac: Frigid, Wild, Wet and Snowy.

Actual Outcome:


December 2008 was one of the coldest on record, and ended up being the snowiest December on record in Wausau, while in the top 5 in many other locales. The biggest snowfall of the season took place on the 30th with 7.3" piling up in Wausau. Total snowfall for the month was 37.6"!

January 2009 continued with frigid conditions (and the 2nd month in a row that was 7.2 degrees below average). Snowfall was rather limited with only 7.3" for the whole month. Considering how cold it was, the snow from the month prior really didn't melt with the snow depth staying in the 15-17" range.

February 2009: Temperatures were just about normal for the month as a whole (+0.1), while 11.2" of snow fell, which was about 2.5" above normal.

In Summary---Old Farmer's Almanac was close with the cold in early December, but the chill persisted for much of the month. It did get the big snowfall between Christmas and New Years. Other than that, it wasn't even close.

Farmers' Almanac was rather ambiguous in its description of the winter. Frigid--yes, Wet--not exactly, Snowy--in December at least, Wild--??

Summer 2009


Old Farmer's Almanac-- Hotter than normal temperatures, particularly in July, with a cooler August. Rainfall will be slightly below normal.

Farmer's Almanac-- Warm & Wet.

Actual Outcome:


June 2009: Started off rather cool and wet, followed by a surge of summer heat right around the official start of summer on the 21st. The only 90 degree days of the season were reached in this time span. Rainfall was below average by nearly 2" in Wausau, however there was flash flooding from storms in parts of Taylor and NW Marathon Counties on the 22nd.

July 2009: The string of cooler than average conditions continued with limited rainfall. The most fell on the 22nd in Wausau, but ended up 3" below average for the month.

August 2009: Parts of the month did feel like summer with a 9 consecutive days of 80 degree temperatures, and there was plenty of rain as well. By far the wettest month of the season and year for that matter. Flash flooding from storms on the morning of the 14th dumped just under 2" at the airport in Wausau, while 3.50" to 4" fell in other parts of town, along with portions of Central Marathon and Clark Counties. In the end however, temperatures finished over 2 degrees below average, along with frost in parts of the area on the 31st.

In summary---Old Farmer's Almanac was completely wrong in both aspects, not much heat and in general below average rainfall for the season as a whole.

Farmer's Almanac didn't do much better. In my book, warm means at least above average temperatures by a degree or two for the season...which didn't happen and once again the 3 months combined were not wet.

Neither one of these almanac mentioned the threat of severe weather or tornadoes. There were No twisters in North Central Wisconsin through end of August. In all of Wisconsin a grand total of 13 tornadoes touched down, which is below the average of 21 in a year.

So that's the facts on the Farmers' and Old Farmer's Almanac predictions for this past winter and summer season.

Now what are these folks conjuring up for the winter ahead? Well the Farmers' Almanac is proclaiming the Great Lakes region to be Frigid and Dry for the 2009-2010 winter. The Old Farmer's Almanac apparently will be coming out with their prediction soon.

Meantime, back in the scientific world of weather, an El Nino pattern has set up across the Northern Hemisphere, which in the short term means less hurricanes that in years past. Down the road to winter that translates for us in Wisconsin to a milder winter with below average snowfall. Who will be right? I'd put the odds in favor of the El Nino pattern.

For a broader look at how well the Farmers' and Old Farmer's Almanac did for last winter, check out this link--

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