A cold, snowy winter for Connecticut?

Susan Hickman of New London clears off her car as she gets ready to move it due to a parking ban in downtown New London as a winter storm blows through the region Jan. 7, 2017. Weather officials and the Farmers' Almanac alike are forecasting snowy conditions this coming winter. (Tim Cook/The Day)
Susan Hickman of New London clears off her car as she gets ready to move it due to a parking ban in downtown New London as a winter storm blows through the region Jan. 7, 2017. Weather officials and the Farmers' Almanac alike are forecasting snowy conditions this coming winter. (Tim Cook/The Day)

Meteorologist Gary Lessor typically does not put much stock in Farmers' Almanac weather forecasts. But unfortunately, he said, he agrees with its winter outlook this year.

Why is it unfortunate? Because both Lessor and the Farmers' Almanac  are predicting a cold and snowy winter in New England.

"It may not start out in December, but it looks like it goes January, February, March, that's when the cold would settle in," said Lessor, assistant to the director of meteorological studies at Western Connecticut State University.

In its 2018 Winter Outlook released this week, the Farmers' Almanac says that from "the Great Lakes into the Northeast, snowier-than-normal conditions are expected. We can hear the skiers, boarders, and snowmobilers cheering from here!"

The 199-year-old periodical is "red-flagging" Jan. 20-23, Feb. 4-7 and 16-19, and March 1-3 and 20-23 of next year for heavy precipitation along the Atlantic seaboard.

Specifically, the Farmers' Almanac predicts a half-foot or more of snow in New England Jan. 20-23, and 1 to 2 feet of snow for both the early February and early March dates. For March 20-23, it simply says, "A major storm brings strong winds and heavy precipitation."

Every year when the Farmers' Almanac releases its forecast, news outlets across the country share the predictions, and casual weather-watchers weigh in with their delight or dismay.

"We do believe that we provide an invaluable, long-range outlook that helps people plan ahead," managing editor Sandi Duncan says. The website states that "many longtime Almanac followers claim that our forecasts are 80 percent to 85 percent accurate."

But meteorologists have long rolled their eyes at the methods — to the short extent to which they know the methods — of both the Farmers' Almanac and Old Farmer's Almanac, and question how accuracy is measured.

They say there is no way to predict weather on exact dates months out. Meteorologists also criticize the almanacs for being vague enough to ensure some truth among a dayslong span, a criticism also leveled at horoscopes.

The Farmers' Almanac says its predictions consider sunspot activity, tidal action of the moon, planetary positions and other factors. But the only person who knows the "proprietary and reliable formula" is a "weather prognosticator" with the pseudonym Caleb Weatherbee.

Lessor, on the other hand, said that he is looking at "the global El Niño/La Niña setup as well as ocean temperatures and what we have been experiencing in the past when we have similar setups."

El Niño is a warming of Pacific waters off the coast of South America while La Niña is a cooling, and Lessor said his models point toward a neutral scenario, which makes for colder weather in the Northeast. The Atlantic is warmer than usual and therefore putting more moisture in the air, Lessor said, which points to a snowier winter.

Pulling the numbers for Groton, Lessor said normal average temperatures are 34.6 degrees for December, 29.1 for January and 31.8 for winter overall. He thinks this winter will average between 30 and 31 degrees.

That may not sound like much, Lessor said, but an average more than one degree off is considered abnormal.

To those who are not fans of frigidity, Lessor said the good news is that Canadian models, which he said are "known to be pretty accurate long-range," are calling for a warmer than usual winter.

"It is not an exact science by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly there is some hope," he said.

e.moser@theday.com

Snow blankets Broadway in Norwich as a winter storm hits the region March 14, 2017.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Snow blankets Broadway in Norwich as a winter storm hits the region March 14, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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