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The Farmers' Almanac Annual Winter Forecast: Why You Shouldn't Take It Seriously

BOSTON (CBS) - The Farmers' Almanac has released its extended forecast for the 2020-2021 winter season.

"Remember last year's almost snow-free winter in the Northeast? Well, this year our prediction is very different, with the possibility of a blizzard hitting the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states during the second week of February. This storm may bring up to 1-2 feet of snow to cities from Washington, D.C. to Boston, Massachusetts!"

Well, winter lovers, there you have it! The Farmers' Almanac has given you something to look forward to in the middle of this hot and soupy summer. How do they do it? What is their secret? And why aren't we now shifting to a 365 day forecast at the end of each of our weathercasts?

They claim that they don't use any fancy shmancy "satellite tracking equipment," but instead they largely rely on a set of "rules" developed by the Almanacs first editor, David Young, back in 1818. And those rules have been kept top secret, known only today by a man who goes by Caleb Weatherbee - imagine one man wielding such amazing power!

Finally, they claim to be 80-85% accurate, even listing a page on their website with some amazing stories of forecast verification!

Ok, where do I start? First, let me say that I actually really enjoy the Farmers' Almanac. It is chock full of all kinds of great articles and very helpful astronomical data, you will always find one in our weather office at WBZ-TV.

BUT, and that is a very big BUT, the release of their annual winter forecast has quickly become one of my least favorite days of the weather year, right up there with Groundhog Day (Shhhh! Don't tell Ms. G, she would not be happy).

On this day each and every year, someone at our daily morning news meeting will inevitably bring up the Farmers' Almanac winter prediction. A hush falls over the crowd in attendance, long time WBZ-TV reporters and producers cringe and prepare for my response as all eyes turn in my direction, but I won't be baited into their trap!

Years ago they would have gotten a rise out of me, but not anymore. I calmly state to those newbies in the audience that while I love the Almanac, we won't be reporting on their winter forecast today as part of our evening weathercast.

I mean can you imagine Eric Fisher saying,"It looks like a pleasant weekend ahead with highs in the 70's and 80's and lastly we are expecting a 1-to-2 foot snowfall to paralyze the region on the second week of February. Back to you!"

Let me assure you, there is absolutely no scientific way possible that they can predict snowstorms 6 months in advance - not down to the day, the week or even the month.

Nor can they predict a cold snap this far out.

Might we have a snowstorm the second week of February? Sure! Meteorologically it is the peak period for snowstorms in New England.

Will we have some bitterly cold periods this winter? I certainly hope so, otherwise this global warming thing is farther along than we thought!

So, you could see how they could claim 80-85% accuracy with such forecasts, predicting snow and cold in a New England winter doesn't take a genius, heck a groundhog can be right nearly half the time!

Again, don't take this as me bashing the Almanac, I am just getting out ahead of all the smart aleck's who will Tweet me today asking my thoughts on the cold, snowy winter ahead.

Again, they might be right! You know what they say about broken clocks being right twice a day, but, it is simply way too early for any real winter predictions.

If you forced me to make some sort of early forecast right now, I would site a growing La Nina in the Pacific, a warmer than normal Atlantic Ocean and an anomalously warm pool of water in the northern central Pacific which all would point towards a warmer than average winter in the East. But, that could easily change in the coming months, hence why we don't make winter predictions in August. Heck, we have enough trouble making winter predictions in winter!

So, good luck Mr. Weatherbee, whomever you are and if we get 1-2 feet of snow during the second week of February I'll be sure to give you some props!

Follow Terry on Twitter @TerryWBZ

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