As Central Texas continues to weather record-setting heat and some of the worst drought conditions seen in more than a decade, The Farmers’ Almanac is painting a white picture for the winter.
The periodical, founded in 1818 with a focus on long-range weather forecasting, is predicting significant snowfall Jan. 12-15 in Central Texas. That snowfall would follow heavy snow the magazine expects in northern Texas on Jan. 4-7, with frosty conditions forecast for the Gulf Coast.
“My feeling is it’s going to be a chilly winter,” Peter Geiger, editor of the Farmers’ Almanac, said while explaining over the phone from Maine that the magazine does not have a concrete definition of what classifies as chilly. “In my mind, chilly is colder than normal. I know you’ve been so unbearably hot down there that one can only dream of January.”
But not everyone is convinced. Keith White, a National Weather Service meteorologist for the Austin-San Antonio region, said the Farmers’ Almanac predictions are more like a coin flip. And, after reading over the publication’s extended forecast for this winter, he said he’s not very confident in its predictions.
“There is little to no scientific evidence that sunspot activity and the position of planets have any impact on our weather and our climate,” White said. “A lot of the statements they use in terms of what they expect over the course of a season are very broad and can be applied kind of subjectively by people.”
The Famers’ Almanac develops its extended forecast using a 204-year-old mathematical formula focused around sunspot activity, planet positions and tidal actions of the moon. David Young, an astronomer and mathematician who was the first editor of the Famers’ Almanac, created the mathematical formula two centuries ago.
Since then, only seven people have been hired by the periodical to use the formula, altered slightly over time, to come up with weather predictions, according to Geiger. Those predictions are calculated two years in advance, he explained.
“Though weather forecasting, and long-range forecasting, in particular, remains an inexact science, many longtime Almanac followers maintain that our forecasts are 80% to 85% accurate,” the almanac’s website says.
White explained that, while the Farmers’ Almanac might be a preferred source for many in Texas, he recommends the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center when looking ahead for predictions.
Still, the Farmers’ Almanac — though the dates might not have been exactly on par — claims it did land on the right side of White’s coin flip by accurately predicting the 2021 winter storms that overwhelmed the Texas power grid, leaving many without power in subfreezing temperatures and resulting in more than200 deaths.
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State health officials determined that 246 people in Texas — 28 of them in Travis County — died as a result of the winter storm, although experts estimate the true number of victims is likely much higher.
Geiger explained that while his predictions find that central Texas will likely experience a few cold snaps this winter, the Famers’ Almanac is not forecasting the kind of severe weather experienced during the deadly February 2021 storms.
Finding common ground, both Geiger and White agree that Central Texas likely will not experience storms this winter as severe as those in 2021.
“This year, we expect a high likelihood of our third straight fall into winter of La Niña conditions,” a climate pattern that typically leads to warmer and drier weather, White said. “I know a lot of people both last winter and coming into this winter are certainly still worried that they may see conditions similar to what we had back in February of 2021. But, honestly, that week of winter weather was a once-every-few-decades kind of probability.”
This article originally appeared in Austin American-Statesman: Here are the Farmers’ Almanac winter predictions for Central Texas