This exceptionally cold and snowy winter has shown that government climate scientists were dead wrong when it came to predicting just how cold this winter would be, while the 197-year old Farmers’ Almanac predicted this winter would be “bitterly cold”.
Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) predicted temperatures would be “above normal from November through January across much of the lower 48 states.”
This, however, was dead wrong. As Bloomberg notes, the CPC underestimated the “mammoth December cold wave, which brought snow to Dallas and chilled partiers in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.”
CPC grades its prediction accuracy on a Heidke skill score, which ranges from 100 (perfect accuracy) to -50 (no better than playing pin the tail on the donkey while blindfolded).
CPC’s score for October’s weather predictions for November through January was -22 and the September weather prediction for October through December was at -23.
“Not one of our better forecasts,” Mike Halpert, the Climate Prediction Center’s acting director, told Bloomberg Businessweek.
What actually happened this winter? A “polar vortex” swept down and caused every state except Florida to experience snowfall and brought about 4,406 record low temperatures across the U.S. in January along with 1,073 record snowfalls.
The most recent winter storm that slammed into the eastern U.S. last week knocked out power for more than 1 million people in the Southeast and caused 21 deaths along the East Coast. More than 2,500 flights were delayed last Friday and 1,500 were canceled from East Coast airports.
Who could have predicted such a harsh winter? The Farmers Almanac did, according to a CBS News report from August 2013. The nearly 200-year old publication hit newsstands last summer and predicted that “a winter storm will hit the Northeast around the time the Super Bowl is played at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands in New Jersey,” and also predicted “a colder-than-normal winter for two-thirds of the country and heavy snowfall in the Midwest, Great Lakes and New England.”
“We’re using a very strong four-letter word to describe this winter, which is C-O-L-D. It’s going to be very cold,” Sandi Duncan, the almanac’s managing editor, told CBS News in August.
While there was thankfully no snow on Super Bowl Sunday, those sad Broncos fans trying to get back home from New Jersey had some trouble as snow started falling the day after the most important football game of the year.
The Midwest and Great Lakes regions also saw terribly cold weather and record levels of snowfall this winter. Major Midwest cities like Chicago, Cincinnati and Detroit have seen record levels of snowfall. Chicago alone saw 45.8 inches of snow by the end of January, and, as of Friday, the Great Lakes were 90 percent frozen over.
The Midwest and New England were hit with frigid weather and snow for long periods of time. So long, in fact, that there were propane shortages and natural gas prices spiked due to increased need for heating and supply bottlenecks.
The Farmers’ Almanac makes predictions based on planetary positions, sunspots and lunar cycles — a prediction system that has remained largely unchanged since its first publication in 1818. While modern scientists don’t put much stock in the almanac’s way of doing things, the book says it’s accurate about 80 percent of the time.