Before all our modern technology, which uses things like Doppler radar, the Old Farmer’s Almanac was a trusted guide. But how accurate is the Old Farmer’s Almanac at predicting the weather?
A Closer Look at the Old Farmer’s Almanac
The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a reference book filled with all kinds of topics and useful information, including astronomical data, planting charts, recipes, articles and weather forecasts. The Almanac was founded in 1792.
In its early history, between 1792 and 1815, almanac founder Robert B. Thomas studied solar activity, astronomy cycles and weather patterns to calculate the Almanac’s weather predictions. Thomas kept his forecasting formula a secret, some of which is still in use today. Few people outside of the Almanac’s weather prognosticators have seen the formula. It is reportedly kept in a black tin box at the Almanac offices in Dublin, New Hampshire.
The Almanac has refined its weather prediction methods over the years. Reportedly, its modern forecasts emphasize temperature and precipitation deviations from 30-year statistical averages prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and updated every ten years. Accordingly, “The most recent climatological normals tabulation spans the period 1971 through 2000,” according to Wikipedia.
Accuracy claims and findings
The Almanac claims: “Every year, folks ask us … ‘How does The Old Farmer’s Almanac predict the weather?’ As America’s oldest weather forecaster, we specialize in predicting long-range weather, using a unique, age-old formula that’s traditionally 80% accurate.”
The magazine claims that its 2019-2020 weather predictions were 80 percent accurate.
“Here’s how our 2019–2020 winter forecast did!” the Almanac wrote. “Although neither we nor any other forecasters have as yet gained sufficient insight into the mysteries of the universe to predict the weather with total accuracy, our results are almost always very close to our traditional claim of 80% accuracy.”
However, when it comes to overall, consistent accuracy, many of today’s meteorologists beg to differ with the accuracy claims of the almanac.
Meteorologist Tom Skilling at WGN9 in Chicago says of the almanac’s accuracy: “The Old Farmers’ Almanac claims a forecast accuracy of 80 to 85 percent, but in reality its forecast accuracy here in the Midwest is on the order of 50 to 52 percent.”
How weather is predicted today?
Today, modern meteorologists use a number of tools to predict the weather. Here are some of the ways in which the premier weather forecasting agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), predicts weather.
“NOAA’s Weather and Climate Operational Supercomputer System (WCOSS) is the backbone of modern forecasting. With 5.78 petaflop computing capacity it can process quadrillions of calculations per second. Our supercomputers are almost 6 million times more powerful than your average desktop computer,” the NOAA says. “Observational data collected by doppler radar, radiosondes, weather satellites, buoys and other instruments are fed into computerized National Weather Service (NWS) numerical forecast models. The models use equations, along with new and past weather data, to provide forecast guidance to our meteorologists.
Getting an accurate weather report is easy
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