Too soon to freak out about winter weather

Almanac leaves a lot open to interpretation

We've all seen the latest weather drama unfolding in our Facebook and Twitter feeds. It's usually something like, 'this winter will be worse than last years' or 'this winter will make last year's polar vortex look like a tropical vacation.'

Before you hit share, retweet or begin crying in the corner, let's step back and take a long, hard look at this.

First, calm down. Just enjoy the rest of summer and fall. This can be some of the best weather all year.

Second,  realize it's the first week of September, and we have nearly another  four months before winter officially begins.

And third, this prediction came from the Farmers Almanac. I know a lot of people swear by the Farmers' Almanac and will defend it until they're blue in the face. If you're one of those people, save yourself the trouble and just stop reading now.

Farmers Almanac
The Farmers' Almanac is forecasting three-quarters of the country will see below average temperatures. They're also calling for a boatload of snow from the Plains, into the Midwest, and across the Northeast.

They're basing this on their tried and true formula that takes things like sunspot activity, tidal action of the moon, and the position of the planets into account. They also brag about how they got it right last year when the National Weather Service was off in their forecast.

Plus, they published this dire winter forecast in August, which means they put it together with even earlier data! That's like forecasting tomorrow's weather with last week's data.

If you've ever read the Farmers' Almanac's forecast, you've likely realized it reads more like a daily horoscope than a forecast, and it leaves a lot open to interpretation. Plus, multiple studies have shown their long-term forecasts are right about fifty percent of the time, no better than flipping a coin.


Versus Science
Meteorology isn't an exact science. It's a struggle to forecast seven days out, let alone an entire few months. At the same time, most of these seasonal forecasts are painted with broad brush strokes because the entire global flow is taken into account, and THAT is easier to predict.

One of those global features meteorologists are looking at very closely is El Niño.

Without getting into a lengthy science lesson, El Niño is unusually warm ocean waters in the Equatorial Pacific. This warmer water disrupts and changes the overall weather pattern across the globe.

As of Sept. 4, the Climate Prediction Center, is forecasting a 60- to 65-percent chance of a weak El Niño forming between the middle of this month and November, just in time to affect our winter here in the United States.

During these El Niño winters, the southern half of the country is usually wet and cool, good news for nearly everyone experiencing drought conditions from California to Texas. Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the Northern Rockies, and even part of the Northern Plains typically experience warmer than average weather. As for the rest of the country, it's up for grabs.


So will it be a bad winter?
It's really too early to say. It's not even fall, and the Climate Prediction Center doesn't typically issue their seasonal forecast until two-thirds of the way through November.

Right now, the long-term forecast for December, January and February looks like it was directly taken from the El Niño playbook.

 

In the meantime, be careful what you read on the internet and try to enjoy what's left of summer and fall before fretting over the impending snow and cold. After all, I noticed our first frost advisory of the season in western Montana the other morning.

Follow Storm Shield Meteorologist Jason Meyers via the Storm Shield app on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Download the Storm Shield Weather Radio App for your iPhone or Android device and get severe weather alerts wherever you are.

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