When October rolls around, I like to buy my copy of the New Year’s Farmer’s Almanac at the local supermarket. Year to year I vary which version I buy since multiple publishers, from the Old Farmer’s Almanac in New Hampshire to Blum’s Farmer’s and Planter’s Almanac in North Carolina, are available locally.
No matter, any almanac you consult will contain interesting articles about gardening and astronomy, as well as homespun advice.
For example, this year’s Blum’s Almanac includes interesting articles about honey bees and a look at the heroic NASA astronauts who walked on the Moon.
Meteorologists have long criticized farmer’s almanacs for their gobbledygook and bad forecasting. Yet, fans say their almanacs have identified weather patterns way ahead of the scientists.
The famous Old Farmer’s Almanac, a New England favorite, was founded in 1792; its editor claims he holds a secret formula developed by founder Robert Thomas, just after the American Revolution.
The Old Farmer’s formula factors in the conic sections of planetary orbits, the rise and fall of sun spots, plus varied high and low tide trends. Today, Old Farmer’s has supposedly computerized Thomas’ 18th century formula to make the predictions that are even more accurate—but says who?
Regardless of editor claims, the Old Farmer’s Almanac doesn’t have access to the vast database of terrestrial and space weather agencies such as NOAA and NASA, a database which includes today’s changing climate, manmade or otherwise (we’ll leave it to the experts to argue over). Nor does the almanac have access to a Cray supercomputer for complex weather pattern modeling.
I recall that the year 2007 marked a turning point for claims about the accuracy farmer’s almanacs.
At that time, a meteorologist at the Pennsylvania State University released his study of the Old Farmer’s weather track record. It wasn’t very flattering for almanac publishers and fans.
According to Penn State’s Dr. Paul Knight, secrecy—in the case of the Old Farmer’s Almanac’s weather forecasting—is an indicator that it’s probably bogus. This, secrecy means no one objective can get a peek at how it all works.
“The ability to predict events… (so) far in advance is zero,” Dr. Knight was quoted in a September 2007 Penn State news statement about his research. “There’s no proven skill, there’s no technique that’s agreed upon in science to be able to do that. If you have something that’s really innovative and shows skill, then bring it before your peers. You don’t have to show us everything in case you want to make a business out of it, but give us some idea.”
Meanwhile, for our region, my copy of Blum’s Almanac predicts unsettled weather and gusting winds around Thanksgiving and then cold rains for Christmas with fair and cold times around New Year’s Eve, but becoming milder early in the New Year of 2017.
The best advice we can pass along to our almanac fans and critics is that wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.
— The Eagle