A look at the 'Old Farmer's Almanac' snowy winter prediction

Franklin Pierce University (WIkimedia Commons)

BOSTON — It’s that time of year again! The Old Farmer’s Almanac is out with predictions for temperature and snowfall this coming winter 2016-17.

What Does the Almanac Say?

If you love snow, you will like their forecast. Not much detail is given, except to say that we can expect above normal snowfall.

However, it is noted that we can expect the snowiest periods from mid to late January and from early to mid February. I will then note that these are also the times we normally see our snowiest periods. Those are also our normal coldest periods, which the Almanac is “predicting” to be our coldest as well.

The publication does stray from the norm a bit by forecasting  late December to be one of our coldest periods, though I’m sure you’d agree that isn’t a huge stretch.

Is the Almanac Reliable?

So, can we trust the prediction of above normal temperatures overall and above average snowfall? I can’t say it is a bad forecast, but I can tell you this- the Old Farmer’s Almanac was wrong last year, and it wasn’t even close.

Here are some direct excerpts from their website prior to last winter:

"According to the Farmers' Almanac, the winter of 2015–2016 is looking like a repeat of last winter, at least in terms of temperatures with unseasonably cold conditions over the Atlantic Seaboard" (Keep in mind the winter before was the record-breaking February snow and overall winter season with 110.6")

"New Englanders will once again experience a very frigid (shivery) winter (Déjà vu)." (Again referring to the bone-chilling winter of 2014-15)

“Precipitation-wise, if you like snow, then you should head out to the northern and central Great Plains (most of the North Central States), the Great Lakes, New England (sorry Boston!)”

And the best one…

“So sharpen those skis and boards, because the eastern slopes look like the ideal places to carve some turns."

You will remember we had a mild winter with below average snowfall. Also, I can personally tell you that ski conditions were awful everywhere in New England.

What do the Numbers Really Say?

Along with our intern, Lucy, I did some research. We tried to find a connection to our current pattern and the upcoming winter.

We found three years before this one that were both the driest year on record to date (August) and the driest summers to date (1907, 1949, 1995)

Of those years, only one had an el nino pattern end and la nina winter (current trend) ahead. That would be 1995.

We had 107.6” of snow.

Now, we aren’t saying that will happen. We have to see how the summer finishes, if la nina really develops, and how the pattern trends through the fall. Still, that little bit of research does line up with the Almanac.

Time will tell.