How Accurate Is The Old Farmer's Almanac's Weather Forecast?

Looking Back on Our Winter 2019–2020 Forecast

August 10, 2020
Weather Seasons
Vaclav Volrab/Shutterstock

How accurate was The Old Farmer’s Almanac weather forecast this past year? Here’s how our 2019–2020 winter forecast did!

Every year since George Washington was president, The Old Farmer’s Almanac has predicted the weather. And every year in recent times, we publish an analysis of our forecast from the previous year.

How Accurate Is The Old Farmer’s Almanac Weather Forecast?

We believe that nothing in the universe happens haphazardly, that there is a cause-and-effect pattern to all phenomena. However, 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.

The 2019-2020 Prediction

As a reminder, The 2020 Old Farmer’s Almanac predicted that the 2019–2020 winter season would bring below-normal temperatures from the Heartland westward to the Pacific and in the Desert Southwest, Pacific Southwest, and Hawaii, but above-normal temperatures throughtout the rest of the country. Precipitation was predicted to be below normal in Florida and the Gulf Coast area, Texas, Oklahoma, the Upper Midwest, the western Desert Southwest, central California, and western Hawaii and above normal in all other regions. 

We predicted below-normal snowfall in much of the country and above-normal snowfall from the southern Appalachians northward through western Pennsylvania, most of Ohio and the Heartland, from northern Michigan westward to the Puget Sound, Alaska, and the Intermountain region. 

How Accurate Were We Last Year?

Our overall accuracy rate came out to 80.5%, which is just above our traditional average rate of 80%. This rate is calculated by comparing our predicted changes in temperature and precipitation to the actual observed changes.

The only regions in which our temperature forecasts were incorrect were the Atlantic Corridor, Florida, Intermountain, Pacific Southwest, and Hawaii. In precipitation, we were correct in all regions with the exception of the Ohio Valley and Upper Midwest.

Most of the places in the northern tier of states had above-normal snowfall. We also forecast “Snowy” in Alaska, and many parts of the state did have above-normal snowfall. Nearly every place else that normally has winter snowfall was below normal. We did indeed forecast below-normal snowfall in most of these areas, but we forecast too much snow in most spots from the Appalachians westward to the Intermountain region.

Traditionally, The Old Farmer’s Almanac still has about an 80% accuracy track record. These numbers are determined by looking at monthly averages—since these are long-range monthly predictions—as opposed to judging each day’s forecast.

See our full recap with more details in The 2021 Old Farmer’s Almanac.

How We Make Our Forecast

We derive our weather forecasts from a secret formula that was devised by the founder of this Almanac, Robert B. Thomas, in 1792. Thomas believed that weather on Earth was influenced by sunspots, which are magnetic storms on the surface of the Sun.

Some people don’t believe that the minute amount of energy the sun bears could have any influence on the atmosphere and therefore the climate and the weather, but we are among those that do.

In addition to solar science (the study of sunspots), we rely on climatology (the study of weather patterns) and meteorology (the study of the atmosphere).

Of course, our exact formula is a secret. But rest assured, the meteorological technology and methods are continually updated. While principals upon which the forecasts are made are essentially the same, we use the latest state-of-the-art satellite data, all the latest technology and equipment.

Read more about how we predict the weather.

Get Weather Predictions for 2021

2021 Old Farmer's Almanac

How cold and snowy will this winter be? For specifics on snowfall and temperatures in your region, pick up The 2021 Old Farmer’s Almanac—now available for pre-order!

And for our very best value package—including our most popular Almanac products—join The Old Farmer’s Almanac Best Value Club Charter Membership!

Source: 

The 2021 Old Farmer's Almanac

SUPER DISCOUNT!

Celebrate Almanac Tradition and Save 57% with a Charter Membership in The Old Farmer’s Almanac Best Value Club

Best Value Club

You are invited to join The Old Farmer’s Almanac Best Value Club at a Special Savings!

An incredible value—57% off for you!
For traditional Almanac fans:
Just $29.97! You save 57%!

Get the best value for your Almanac dollar with these essentials. Claim you Old Farmer’s Almanac Best Value Club Charter Membership today!

YES, sign me up now!

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Lower Lakes Region

Most of the projections for the Lower Lakes were close to the mark, although August turned out to be a near oven with quite not enough rain. Almost had to go buy jelly beans, unshelled peanuts and a spray bottle for water and go outside and yell, "Rain, willya?" at the sky gods, but then that derecho went through here and did so much damage. 15 tornadoes - almost a swarm occurred.
National Weather Service is predicting cooler weather and some rain in a couple of days, right in keeping with your September forecast.
Note: last year, the first snow was on Hallowe'en and no one in my neighborhood went trick-or-treating. I have photos, measured 4 inches on my front steps, where I feed the birds. The last snow of winter was April 30, same as 2018. I don't know if it's significant, but the cold weather did not really turn summery until after July 25. Butterfly and dragonfly count seems to be down in some areas, if that's significant.

Mid Atlantic Region

I thought your predictions were pretty close to what we had. It was warmer than normal (what's normal?) and we had very little snow. In late Dec. I turned the heat down and opened windows.
We had a quick, wet spring which preceded a very hot/humid June/July and beginning of August. It started to cool down a bit after the first tropical storm, which dumped around 8 inches of rain in a few hours.

Almanac weather accuracy

The Editors's picture

Hi, Diane,

Thank you for taking the time to let us know how the forecast worked out in your area.

As for what’s normal—good question; many people wonder. Here’s the answer: 

When you read the weather predictions in this Almanac (or listen to any TV or radio forecast), you may notice the terms “normal” or “average” used to compare current traditions.

Most of us may think of the weather last year or in recent history.  However, averages are based on 30-year periods prepared by government meteorological agencies and updated every 10 years. The most recent tabulations span the period 1981 through 2010. Before that, the base period used by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC)—based in Asheville, North Carolina—was 1971 through 2000. This involves sweeping up the period’s daily temperature, precipitation, and other weather information from more than 7,000 weather stations around the country and computing new statistics to be rolled out.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac forecasts “deviations from averages,” using the official 30-year normals for temperature and precipitation, averaging each of our designated regions. Technically, we use the normals rather than the averages. (Although the spline-curve modifications affect the daily normals, they have no discernable effect on the monthly normals that we use—so in this case, the normals and averages are actually the same.) 

You can read more here: https://www.almanac.com/how-old-farmers-almanac-predicts-weather and watch an entertaining video about it.

Let’s hope that the coming seasons’ forecast is as accurate!

Winter 2019-20 forecast accuracy

For Region 2 (Atl Corr) and Region 5 (FL) you forecast above normal temps and they were but in this article you say you got them wrong.
For Region 15 (Pac NW) you forecast wetter than normal but it was drier.
I don't have time to go though every region to look for more mistakes.

comment

it helpful information fpr weather 2018 to 2019 coming year will be winter snowfal it totaly change a weather

Long-Range View

The view from the summit of Mount Washington, or Katahdin, can be breathtaking; but if you're forecasting at ground level, I'm guessing you meant "a PEEK at 2018–2019 predictions".

Appreciate that you evaluate and report your own performance, by the way!

peaks

The Editors's picture

Thanks for giving us the peek and catching our oops, Barry. We appreciate that you evaluate our performance, too! ;-)