How Bad Is the Old Farmer’s Almanac? REALLY Bad

Do you ever feel the urge to pick up one of those Farmer’s Almanacs just to see “what’s going to happen this winter”?  Apparently a lot of people do!  But how accurate is it?  Well, it’s not too hard to find opinions, for example:  “…IT NAILED THE SNOWSTORM ON JANUARY 5TH LAST YEAR!”.  But there are very few studies looking at its accuracy.  They claim 80% accuracy…wait, I just choked up laughing…

Jan Null at Golden Gate Weather Services here has checked the almanac’s accuracy several times over the past 15 years, rarely does it do well.

I did do a brief verification of those winter forecasts back around 2,000, but that was lots in a computer change at some point.  So I figured it was time to do it again…

Brian Macmillan and I have been working on a presentation based on 4 winters of Old Farmer’s Almanac forecasts.  By the way, the almanac looks like this:


It’s not the other one that I referred to back in an August posting that looks like this:  FarmersAlmanac_Cover

We looked at the past 4 winters, but didn’t analyze any sort of “snow/cold” forecasts. Just how the temp and precip forecasts compared to reality.


Here are the results…got it all?


The precipitation forecast was particularly abysmal last winter.  They expected a dry start and a wetter end.  Instead the opposite occurred!   OFA (Old Farmer’s Almanac) was correct on precipitation anomaly (month-wise) only 50% of the time during the 16 months we analyzed.  As you can see the temperature forecasts below were even worse…OFA is wrong far more often than right.


The conclusion?


It’s terrible.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

38 Responses to How Bad Is the Old Farmer’s Almanac? REALLY Bad

  1. 12z Euro is beautiful for mountain snow-pack in the extended. Love it.

  2. alexlovesweather says:

    Neutral enso conditions are projected for the 2nd year in a row. The “neutral” state refers to near normal equatorial Pacific water temperatures. My winter forecast projection is for the months of November, December, January, February and March. The research I have compiled focuses on neutral seasons with high rain totals during the combined months of September and October. Years I am using for comparison begin with the fall months of: 1979, 1981, 1986, 1996 and 2005.

    Here is my Portland winter forecast:

    1. Precipitation: Wetter than normal by 5.90 inches, which would be an extra month of rain.

    2. Valley Snowfall: Odds favor no big events with a season total of 1-3 inches. The data set does include a 20% chance of one 8 inch snow event. Last winter only saw a trace of snowfall.

    3. Temperatures: An overall temperature average of 1/2 degree above normal. Month to month data: November near normal; December & January above normal; a cool February and a normal March.

    4. Extreme Weather Events: A high chance of 1-3 valley wind events with south peak gusts 50-70 mph. The comparison winter of 2005-2006 had two valley wind events with 50 mph gusts. The fall of 1981 had a mini – Columbus Day storm with 71 mph winds in Salem and Portland.

    5. Cascade snowfall: Projecting a good year with 525 inches of snow or more at Timberline Lodge. Normal for the resort is a seasonal total of 400-500 inches. Last year saw 545 inches fall. Mt. Hood has not seen a low snow total since 2004-2005. The last 8 winter seasons have averaged 606 inches at the lodge.


    Keep in mind, seasonal forecasting has a skill roughly 20% better than pure chance. Here is my report card from last winter’s forecast:

    1. I projected high confidence of no significant valley snow. (Correct)

    2. Below normal rainfall for the water year: (Wrong) My projected total was 9.00 inches too low.

    3. Mt. Hood snowfall: I projected up to 500 inches of at Timberline. (Correct) The total at the lodge was 545 inches, which is slightly higher than my projection, but still pretty close.

    4. I said we were not due for and not expecting any extreme weather events. (Correct)

    If my winter forecast is correct, the metro valley will see a wet winter with a few decent wind events and most likely a few brief snowfalls, although one major snow event looks possible.

    Happy fall and winter season,

    Rod Hill

    • Joshua in Lake Oswego says:

      Thanks, my second favorite local tv weather personality. Haha

    • Joshua in Lake Oswego says:

      I mean person, not personality. Anyway, thanks for the detailed analysis Rod! Your turn Mark.

    • Punxsutawney (aka HIOPHIL) at work by Sunset High elev ~280 says:

      Major problem imho,

      Rod’s using all positive PDO years for comparison (arguably not 2005). And since September rainfall was so over the top, even if we got no rainfall in October it would be above average. I would want to look at years with above average Aug-September precip (our weather turned active late Aug), neutral ENSO and -PDO.

      Otherwise I do like 1981 as an analog though.

  3. David B. says:


    This is a classic logical fallacy: counting the hits and ignoring the misses.

  4. MasterNate says:

    Mark, if your reading, about how much rain are we looking at from this next system moving in on Monday/Tuesday? Making some farming decisions. I would appreciate any feedback from the model readers on the blog as well.

  5. 35 and frosty out here in BG this morning 🙂

  6. schmit44 says:

    10/3/2013 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:68 at BROOKINGS( 79 ft)
    Low: 49 at MT. YONCALLA(1822 ft) & John Day River B(305 ft) & Celilo, East of(225 ft) & Rye Valley(I-84(2230 ft)

    High:27 at HOWARD Mt Howard(8150 ft)
    Low: 18 at CW1403 Paulina (3688 ft ) & CHLOQN (4231 ft ) & DIMLKE (4726 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 33 degrees
    Agency Lake (56/23 ) (4150 ft )
    KLAMATH NWR (52/19) (4531 ft)

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    0.72″ at Astoria Regional(10ft)
    0.33″ at Eugene, Mahlon S(364ft)
    0.32″ at Portland-Hillsbo(203ft)

  7. BoringOregon says:

    Did that thing say “mild and dry fall and winter” but yet we have beat the all time rain record for last month!?!?

  8. schmit44 says:


    Entries close tonight

  9. EY (Oak Grove) says:

    Apparently only 2 people in the world know The Farmer’s Almanac weather formula.

    “This super-special formula was devised in 1792, by the Almanac’s founder Robert B. Thomas. A “top secret mathematical and astronomical formula, which relies on sunspot activity, tidal action, planetary position and many other factors,” to do what science believes impossible: predict long term patterns in weather. This in turn helps farmers, you know, farm.”

    The two people? The editor for The Farmer’s Almanac and an un-named meteorologist.

    The More You Know

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      Only 2 people in the world want to know The Farmer’s Almanac weather formula!

  10. Warm Rain says:

    If everybody wants snow this winter its not going to happen. In the big snow year of 08/09, Sep of 08 was the clearest month and this Sep was the absolute opposite. It doesnt take a brain scientist to figure out that we wont have any lowland snow events this winter. We will have an above average winter temperature wise with above average rainfall, the mountains will see tremendous snowpack which will lead to flooding concerns in the spring as I envision pineapple expresses hitting the region.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      There has never been a pineapple express in the spring here…at least in the 22 years I’ve been forecasting. But the rest could happen!

    • W7ENK says:

      Septemeber 2012 was also “the driest month”, one of three in a row with virtually 0 rainfall, and the following winter saw 0.0″ of snow at PDX.

      Nice hypothesis, but no.

    • Can I get some of what you are on???

    • Dave in SW PDX (235') says:

      Warm Rain must be the unnamed meteorologist working for the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

    • WEATHERDAN says:

      1968 had a rainy August and September. That winter was cold and snowy. September of 1970 and 1971 and 1972 and 1973 all had cool wet Septembers and big snowstorms and severe cold that winter. I could go on and on but the point has already been made. It might indeed be a warm and wet winter. But to say that it will because September of 2008 was dry and then it snowed in December of that year is false science. That’s like saying if the Blazers win their first five games this season they will win the NBA crown because they won there first 5 games in 1976 and went on to win the championship. to have a proper control sample on which to base predictions you need to have several years of data. Basing it on one year won’t work. Before making such a prediction on this winters forecast please go back and do your research. Then you might be more believable. Peace.

  11. Paul D says:

    People actually buy this?!? What a waste of money….

  12. My favorite “cause” of the Farmer’s Almanac is when they came out in favor of an earlier Thanksgiving date back in the early 1990s, arguing that it should be further away from Christmas and at a time of year more in sync with the actual harvest season…

    • Paul D says:

      And while we’re at it, let’s quit changing our clocks twice a year.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Isn’t Canada’s Thanksgiving Day in October? That would make more sense.

    • Canada, eh? I like that! And if we’re gonna change clocks in October, why not change them on Halloween? That way the kids could get an extra hour of sleep (or throwing up) before heading to school the next day.

    • Jethro (Molalla ~320') says:

      Yes Mark, Canadian Thanksgiving is the second Monday in October. That timing would work great with the harvests in these parts, but in central/northern Alberta, they barely get the crops in before that date (and sometimes don’t quite make it).

      I don’t know if I would like an early October Turkey Day down here… it doesn’t seem quite chilly enough yet for that kind of meal.

  13. steveofportland says:

    re slide #3: that phrase goes “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” It’s very possible for a non-broken clock to be always wrong.

    Of course, that phrase doesn’t pack the same punch now that “analog” clocks are less common than digital ones.

  14. MasterNate says:

    Like I said, good to have in the bath room. In case you run out of wipe!

    • W7ENK says:

      It must be slow in the ‘ol Fox 12 Weather Studio. Didn’t we just discuss this a couple months ago?? HAHA!!

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Yeah, but now I have a PPT presentation ready to go! Good reason to share my “research”.

    • W7ENK says:

      Oh, so you’re pulling your material for this year’s Winter Weather conference at OMSI straight out of the Old Farmer’s Almanac? I see…

      BTW, thanks for the plug on your show last night! Don’t worry about what I was doing out in Estacada, you’re right, it’s none of your business. And don’t worry about all that mud on my shoes… :mrgreen:

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