The Old Farmer’s Almanac is North America’s oldest continuously published periodical. It was first published in 1792 during George Washington’s first term as president. On one hand, I respect any organization that puts their weather prediction out there. On the other hand, I think they’re struggling this year:
“JANUARY 2014: temperature 38° (5° above avg.); precipitation 3″ (avg.); Jan 1-8: Snow showers, cold; Jan 9-11: Rainy, mild; Jan 12-17: Showers, quite mild; Jan 18-20: Flurries, cold; Jan 21-26: Rainy periods, mild; Jan 27-31: Rain and snow showers; cold, then mild.”
A statistical analysis of Old Farmer’s Almanac forecasts gives them slightly better than 50 percent accuracy, although (because of vague predictions and ranges) they say they are closer to 80 percent.
Modern weather forecasting is amazingly more accurate than it was 20 or 30 years ago. The fact that they can reliably predict snowfall quantities is pretty amazing. But, they still miss the mark on a regular basis. In baseball, striking out 60 percent of the time lands you in Cooperstown, but not so much with weather.
Winter is always a tough season. The days are short and cold. The nights are long and colder. This year we’ve had a “Polar Vortex” (I saw a mock film poster where a Polar Vortex was raining polar bears down on an unsuspecting public, ala Sharknado), snows and more subfreezing temperatures. Coupled with the water crisis where people simply stayed home (or only went out in search of clean water), and another round of cold and miserable days, cabin fever is becoming a real problem.
This Sunday is Groundhog Day, a time when we look to the weather prognostication talents of a fat, furry rodent. Statistically, groundhogs in multiple locations are only accurate about a third of the time—effectively equal to chance. Sunday is also Candlemas, a Christian holiday where orthodox Christians bring candles to church to be blessed either for use at home or in the church. (It corresponds to three different events in the bible including Jesus’ presentation at the temple as an infant, following Mary’s purification.) Many Christian holidays replace pagan holidays and Sunday corresponds to Imbolc, a Gaelic festival and the Roman feast of Lupercalia.
Whether you celebrate Candlemas or Groundhog Day, Sunday is effectively Winter’s halfway point. I think we can all agree that it would be great if it is cloudy on Sunday. That way, when the Groundhog pops his head out of his den, he won’t see his shadow and an early spring is on the way. I know statistically that doesn’t mean anything, but at this point, I’m looking for anything to get me to Spring..