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Published February 01, 2009, 12:00 AM

Winter was supposed to be mild and dry

In his “Weather Talk” column in last Wednesday’s Forum, WDAY chief meteorologist John Wheeler took the Old Farmer’s Almanac to the woodshed for the perennial inaccuracy of its weather forecasts.

By: Jack Zaleski,

In his “Weather Talk” column in last Wednesday’s Forum, WDAY chief meteorologist John Wheeler took the Old Farmer’s Almanac to the woodshed for the perennial inaccuracy of its weather forecasts.

The Almanac is a weather bible to its fans, but a careful – or even casual – perusal of its forecasts readily reveals the Almanac’s long-range forecasts are reliably wrong. Almanac editors claim their “secret formula” forecasts are 80 percent accurate. Not even close. Oh, sure, they get it right occasionally, but it’s the old story: Even a blind pig will find an acorn once in a while.

Prompted by Wheeler’s column, I pulled out the 2009 edition, which features the Northern Plains (Almanac zones 9 and 12) forecast for winter 2008-09. It was wrong on the two measures the magazine’s forecasts feature: temperature and precipitation.

The Almanac’s colorful winter forecast map (hanging in my office) shows a warm orange expanse from eastern Montana to the Great Lakes where the weather will be “dry and mild.” Did we miss that day?

Winter temperatures will

be above normal with

below-normal snowfall in December, said the Almanac. Thus far, it’s been one of the colder winters in the books, and December saw an all-time record snowfall at points from Miles City, Mont., to Duluth, Minn. That’s a big fat Almanac miss.

Remember, this is the same possum entrails and alchemy forecast that never saw the 1997 flood coming; that missed last year’s torrential rains and subsequent flooding in Indiana and Iowa; and more recently did not warn of the huge ice storm that glazed the Central Plains and Mid-Atlantic states. The Almanac’s forecast for those places those days? Sunny and mild.

I understand people love the Almanac’s hocus-pocus forecasts. More than any other feature, the forecasts sell the magazine. But baloney sliced by a pseudo-scientific knife is still baloney.

FYI: The Almanac’s general summer forecast for the eastern Dakotas and Minnesota is hot and dry – which means it would be wise to keep the insulated windbreaker and rain slicker handy.


Readers can reach Forum Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521 or e-mail jzaleski@forumcomm.com

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