The latest edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts we can expect “no fewer than seven big snowstorms from coast to coast, including two in April for the Intermountain region west of the Rockies.”
In addition to all that snow that’s being forecast, the almanac says the US needs to “prepare to shiver with below-normal winter temperatures,” that will stick around through Valentine’s Day.
But how accurate is the almanac?
The almanac and its secret formula
According to its own site, the Old Farmer’s Almanac uses a secret formula to predict the weather, with a claimed 80% accuracy, dating back to book’s publication in 1792.
We derive our weather forecasts from a secret formula that was devised by the founder of this Almanac, Robert B. Thomas, in 1792….Thomas believed that weather on Earth was influenced by sunspots, which are magnetic storms on the surface of the Sun.
They’ve apparently updated their methods, at least a little, since then. But they still keep a tight lip on how they make their predictions. They reportedly keep that secret formula in a locked black box.
How accurate is it?
As to the 80% accuracy rate, a University of Illinois study challenges it. The university says the almanac’s chances of getting the weather right are the same as flipping a coin.
“Results of this study found that 51.9 percent of the monthly precipitation forecasts and 50.7 percent of the monthly temperature forecasts were accurate, concluding that these percentages are similar to the 50 percent success rate expected by chance,” horticulture educator with the University of Illinois Ryan Pankau said.
“Overall,” Pankau says, “The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a very remarkable piece of U.S. history and, beyond planting recommendations or weather forecasting, each edition does include a number of interesting, factual articles for gardeners and others. It truly does have something for everyone, and interested readers can pick up a copy. I’ll leave it up to you as to whether or not you plan your crops around it.”