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UPDATE: Almanac predicts rough winter for Missouri

MU climatologist says precise weekly weather predictions are impossible months ahead of time
Monday, August 30, 2010 | 11:02 a.m. CDT; updated 6:26 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 30, 2010

COLUMBIA — Missourians should brace for a winter sure to bring more cold and snow than usual, according to the 2011 edition of the Farmers' Almanac.

The coming winter is forecast to bring extreme storms. Sandi Duncan, managing editor of the Farmers' Almanac, said that Missouri will suffer a lot of cold.

Watching the Weather

The 2011 edition of the Farmers' Almanac predicts significant weather on the following dates.

Sept. 8-11: Possible tornadoes.

Nov. 4-7: Storms, then fair and cold.

Jan. 4-7: A wintry mix, including snow, sleet and freezing rain.

Feb. 8-11: Sleet in Missouri.

March 24-27: Storms in the Southern Rockies will push significant snows to Missouri. 

April 20-23: Potential severe thunderstorms featuring lightning, hail, tornadoes and damaging winds.



"It’s definitely cold," Duncan said. "Very snowy to average snowy. It’s going to be a very rough winter. Good chance for a lot of snow."

Duncan, looking seven months ahead, said Missourians might want an escape plan for March 24-27, which the almanac predicts will be brutal, even though it comes after the spring equinox. Spring break for MU and Columbia Public Schools begins March 26.

"If they want to escape the winter weather you might want to take vacation to the south," Duncan said. "Major snow will be evolving. The month is going to end unseasonably cold.”

The Farmers' Almanac produces week-by-week weather predictions for each region of the United States. Missouri is part of the North Central Region, along with Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Although the almanac publishers purport that predicting weather to the week is possible, MU atmospheric science professor Anthony Lupo disagrees.

“That kind of thing you cannot predict,” Lupo said. “If they hit it, it’s coincidental. They’ve done that kind of thing for years where they try to give you an idea a year in advance what that week will be like. That can’t be done.”

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, which issues long-range weather forecasts, takes a different tack.

“If you look at the Climate Prediction Center this year, it is very different from the almanac,” Lupo said, noting that the almanac is looking for the eastern half of the nation to be very cold. “They’re looking for a lot of arctic air masses coming out of Canada.”

The Climate Prediction Center, on the other hand, is a bit fuzzy. It shows there’s an equal chance that Missouri will see temperatures that are normal or colder or warmer than usual. It shows below-normal precipitation during the earlier winter months and an equal chance of above or below-normal precipitation toward late winter and early spring.

Lupo, who teaches a long-range forecasting class at MU, gives credit to the Farmers’ Almanac for correctly predicting last year’s weather.

“Last year Farmer’s Almanac and the Climate Prediction Center were very different in their forecasts,” Lupo said. “Almanac was going colder; the Climate Prediction Center had a big warm bull’s-eye over the Midwest, and the Farmers’ Almanac won. They had a better prediction.”

The Farmers' Almanac has issued its weather predictions since 1818. Duncan said its forecasters have always used the same formula.

“The Farmers' Almanac bases its predictions on mathematical and astronomical factors," Duncan said. "The exact factor only one person knows. But I do know it's based on sunspot activity, tidal action of the moon and position of the planets.”

Lupo doubts the almanac’s assertion that it is sticking to a 192-year-old formula.

“They’re using hard statistics, and they’re using computer models, too,” Lupo said. “The Farmers’ Almanac and their basis for their formula has changed since 20 or 30 years ago.”

 

 


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Comments

John Schultz August 30, 2010 | 11:49 a.m.

Would be interesting if the author of the article had dug into past predictions from the almanac and determined if they were spot on or hooey.

(Report Comment)
Scott Swafford August 30, 2010 | 5:28 p.m.

We plan to do exactly that, John. Thanks for the suggestion. We're also interested in learning who uses almanac predictions and why.

(Report Comment)
V hughes September 26, 2010 | 8:49 a.m.

As an aritist located in the Northeast, I use the farmers almanac as a tool to determine the best time to get the best pictures for my renditions of winter or autumn. The FA is a tool used to plan ahead if there is a location at some distance away. There are many locations in this area that New Englanders travel to see but rarely see the seasons of the rest of the year. In the most horrible weather I search for the most picturesque environments. I have used the FA in this way for years and know that the FA is spot-on 99% of the time here in New England.

I also use the FA to determine the best planting times and the future watering needs of the vast gardens I tend. The forecast will determine the number of soaker hoses and/or sprinkler systems I use when preparing the gardens for planting. The forecast has always been helpful in determining when to plant as well. Only once have I had to cover early crops to prevent damage and that was due to NOT reading the FA first!

(Report Comment)

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