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U.S. set for brutal winter, Farmers´ Almanac says

I know I trusted my great grandmother's logic and lore more than the 6pm news.
August 29, 2005

BOSTON (Reuters) - Frost in Florida for Christmas, heavy rain in Texas and blizzards belting the Northeast and blanketing New York in deep snow are among the volatile winter weather patterns predicted in the latest Farmers´ Almanac.

After the lashing inflicted on the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina, extreme temperatures and heavy weather will batter much of the United States this winter, said Sandi Duncan, managing editor of the 189-year-old almanac, which publishes its 2006 edition on Tuesday.

"We are calling for quite a bit of cold conditions all the way from Maine down to Florida," said Duncan. "It looks like quite a white winter."

The Farmers Almanac produces detailed long-range weather forecasts from its offices in Maine that its publisher claims are historically 80-85 percent accurate. It´s not to be confused with the Old Farmers´ Almanac published from neighboring New Hampshire.

"This year the range of temperatures are like a roller coaster, so we´re calling it a polar coaster," said Duncan, forecasting an earlier-than-usual frost in Florida from December 24-27, heavy snowfall as early as December in the Northeast and an unusually warm winter in Northern California.

"If you look at the whole country, it´s interesting because we are calling for very cold weather on the Eastern half. But as you go West, we´re predicting above normal temperatures in Northern California," she said.

"In Oregon, we´re calling for a lot of wet conditions, and in the lower half of Texas we´re calling for some very wet conditions. In the Rockies and Great Plains we´re expecting drier-than-normal weather."


The predictions, prepared as long as two years in advance, use a secret formula based on the position of the planets, solar activity, the moon´s tidal action and other weather and astronomical patterns dating back more than a century.

"It´s not just throwing darts," said Duncan.

Michael Wyllie, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service, said the technique of studying long-term weather patterns to produce detailed forecasts has some merits -- and he uses that approach at times.

"There is some science in the way the almanac works. But there is also some folklore. We don´t pooh-pooh it totally. But you shouldn´t be taking it as an actual weather forecast."

Some weather experts like Mark Wysocki, senior lecturer in meteorology at Cornell University, dismiss the almanac as a quaint book with little grounding in meteorology.

He is especially critical of any attempt to predict months in advance the weather in any city on a specific day. "That is well beyond the range of any high science that we have," he said.

Wysocki´s complaint echoes criticisms of television meteorologists who can make horrible mistakes predicting the weather just a week ahead, even with the aid of supercomputers that can crunch a barrage of data.

But Tom Wiggins, an advertising salesman from Atlanta, Georgia who is one of the Farmers´ Almanac´s 4.5 million subscribers, finds its forecasts invaluable in plotting sales campaigns and business trips.

"It seems to work, at least for me," he said.

The almanac came very close to predicting Hurricane Katrina two years ago, Duncan noted.

"We were off by about 10 to 12 days but we had said there might be a hurricane threat in the Gulf Coast come September 10. For doing the predictions two years in advance, I would say we were pretty darn close," she said.

The way science has been corrupted by greed and profits, I have far more faith in the old ways than the new.

A witch


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