You may have heard that the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting another extremely cold winter in our area.
By Paul Hicks
You may have heard that the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting another extremely cold winter in our area. Before you get too discouraged, however, you should know that those same folksy forecasters up in Maine predicted as late as April that the New York area would be socked by a wet, hot summer. The Almanac’s managing editor told the New York Post: “the heat and heavy rainfall will endure through the month of July and some of August before things begin to cool off and dry out.”
Fortunately, the summer has turned out to be unusually moderate in temperature and low in rainfall. Typically, there are nine 90-degree days by the end of July in the New York City area, but this year there were only three. The last time the area went without a heat wave (classified as three consecutive days with temperatures above 90 degrees) was in 2004.
Despite the error in its summer forecast, the Old Farmer’s Almanac claims that it has a record of 80% accuracy with its long-range predictions. Its web site explains that its forecaster (referred to only by the pseudonym, Caleb Weatherbee) uses a “top secret mathematical and astronomical formula, that relies on sunspot activity, tidal action, planetary position and many other factors” to predict weather sixteen months in advance for seven different U.S. climate zones.
The Almanac is not the only long-range fearless forecaster around. Accuweather recently grabbed headlines by forecasting that a polar vortex may visit this region as early as mid to late September. Their long-range forecaster also predicted that, “temperatures will not be as extreme in November when compared to last year, but October could be an extreme month. Also, plan on a wet November and early winter snow in the northeast, including a couple of big storms in December and early January.”
For those of us who are not investing in commodity futures or trying to hedge our fuel bills, shorter term forecasts will suffice. Nonetheless, it can be useful to get some near-term weather details. One resource worth checking out is called WeatherSpark (www.weatherspark .com), which is an American organization, but it covers the whole world so it could be helpful in planning what to pack for your next trip abroad.
If you click on the “Dashboard” feature, an interactive chart appears that shows not only the forecasted temperature over the next seven days, but also the precipitation probability, cloud cover, even the dew point. There is also a useful radar screen showing area temperatures and the location of any precipitation.
The “Forecasts” option provides seven-day predictions, broken down into different parts of the day as well as hourly. You can also switch forecasts and see what differences may exist between what the National Weather Service and World Weather Online say about the weather in any location. If you are interested in historical weather information for any area, there is much to discover on this website.
With memories of Sandy still fresh in the minds of many people, keeping current on hurricane tracking is not a bad idea. Forecasts of hurricane activity are issued before the start of each hurricane season by hurricane experts at Colorado State University (CSU) and by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The following averages have been compiled for the twenty-year period from 1981 through 2010 for Atlantic tropical cyclones along with activity thus far this year: (see chart)
On July 31, the CSU team predicted 10 named storms for the hurricane season, which runs June 1 to November 30. They expected four of those storms to strengthen to hurricanes and one of those hurricanes to be major (Category 3 or higher), with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater. They explained that the lower-than-average prediction was primarily because of a cooling tropical Atlantic and a weak El Niño. The latter is a pattern of warmer than usual water in the Pacific Ocean that usually creates winds that shear apart storms before they can strengthen to hurricanes.
El Niño-like conditions may already be helping create stronger storm-dampening winds in the tropics, but Saharan dust that gets swept up into the atmosphere is also helping. According to the CSU experts, the dust layer reduces the instability of storms as they form off the west coast of Africa.
The first three named storms this season were Arthur, Bertha, and Cristobal. Assuming the CSU forecast of ten storms panned out, the other seven would be named: Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias and Josephine. To paraphrase the Bard (always a risky enterprise): What’s in a name? A Sandy by any other name could be as dangerous.