Farmer almanacs take another stab at upcoming winter weather

September 15, 2014 By    

A Cleveland radio station makes light of a meteorologist’s weather forecast by repeatedly playing a sound bite that proclaims temperatures and precipitation have equal chances of being near normal, above normal or below normal.

“So it’s kind of a close call,” he says.Farmers' Almanac

While technology seems to have made weather forecasts amazingly accurate, few of us take them too seriously. It’s easy to criticize an incorrect forecast or occasionally find humor in the practice of predicting the meteorological future (see chart).

Weather is only one determinant impacting propane retail operations in any given heating season – especially in today’s developing energy markets where oil and gas production from domestic shale plays, the growth in accompanying infrastructure and propane exports are having a great influence on our industry.

So it’s with a grain of salt that we relay the Farmers’ Almanac’s 2014-15 winter weather outlook. Let it serve as another source of information for propane retailers who are preparing for the upcoming heating season, some with lingering, painful memories of last winter’s regional supply shortages.

The Farmers’ Almanac’s press release outlining the winter outlook gets a bit dramatic, stating, “It’s not for the faint of heart,” and proclaims the almanac accurately forewarned of the bitterly cold and snow-filled winter last year.

“While we don’t think the winter will be as extreme as last year, we do believe that it’s going to be another one for the record books,” editor Peter Geiger says in the release.

For the record, the Farmers’ Almanac (made available Aug. 25) is completely different from The Old Farmer’s Almanac (made available Sept. 9), which, by the way, also predicts an arctic blast with above-normal snowfall throughout much of the nation.

According to the 198th edition of the Farmers’ Almanac, the winter of 2014-15 will see below-normal temperatures for about three-quarters of the nation. A large zone of cold temperatures will persist between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians, with the most frigid areas occurring in and around the Northern Plains into the Great Lakes. It says no region will experience prolonged spells of above-normal temperatures.

The almanac predicts a very cold outbreak during the final week of January into the beginning of February and says temperatures could drop to 40 below over the Northern Plains.

The winter forecast out west, where California has been experiencing a severe drought, is for “cool” temperatures with average precipitation. It calls for “chilly” temperatures and normal precipitation for the Pacific Northwest.

The winter outlook comes with a caveat, however – and a disclaimer about the potential for El Niño this year. El Niño, associated with warm waters in the Pacific Ocean, could result in more rain for California and the southern states and a milder winter for the nation’s northern tier, the almanac press release states.

But alas, the almanac is standing by its winter forecast of “shivery and shovelry.” After all, are there any dire consequences if it’s wrong?

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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