December 17, 2009
With only a few days away until the start of the winter season, all predictions are being discussed. The old farmer's almanac boosts an 80 percent accuracy rate for their forecasts for the entire year, but don't start plotting out the days they call for snow just yet. Climatology may be more accurate than the almanac for our area.
The old Farmer's Almanac, first published in 1792, predicts astronomical events, tides, weather, and other phenomena in relation to time.
"They do this according to what they consider to be more or less a secret formula that has been passed down through generations", explained Jerry Stenger, who works with at the UVa Climatology Office.
Whereas Stenger uses records like temperature, rainfall and snowfall averaged over a period of time. the almanac does not provide details, just if it will be cold, warm, wet, dry or snowy.
"Charlottesville area, the average snowfall region is about 17.3"
While that number is an average, it is a specific number for our area. the almanac does not have information for specified places. They divide the country up into zones for forecasts.
"The area they choose for making the forecast, in the case of the Charlottesville area, actually extends up all the way up to and includes Boston, Massachusetts, so if you predict that there will be snow on one of several days in late January, your chances of having snow somewhere in that region, probably the more northern parts is probably actually pretty good."
That statement alone could be why they boast an 80% accuracy rate. but Stenger mentions that the almanac is actually similar to climatology.
"The Farmer's Almanac is more like a good general climatology. It gives you an idea of when snow is likely to occur. When spring will be coming and things of that nature."
For 2009, the Old Farmer's Almanac has predicted a cold and snowy winter with Christmas day as sunny and cold. Their summer forecast for our area is mild and dry.