Editor’s Note: The video above shows the latest from the KXAN First Warning Weather team.
TYLER, Texas (KETK/KXAN) — As summer continues, some people are wondering when things will finally cool down — and the latest prediction from the Farmers’ Almanac has injected a dose of hope. But are its predictions accurate?
The Farmers’ Almanac has been publishing its forecasts for over 200 years using its secret formula and this week it predicted that “the brrr is back” for the 2023-2024 winter. Its extended winter forecast predicts that Texas will see an unseasonably cold, stormy winter for this year.
How reliable are Farmers’ Almanac predictions?
A 2010 study from the University of Illinois tested the accuracy of the Almanac’s predictions for monthly temperatures and precipitation, comparing them to weather data over a five-year period. The results showed 50.7% of the monthly temperature forecasts and 51.9% of the monthly precipitation forecasts were accurate.
Part of the concerns is how far into the future the Almanac is predicting, as forecasts can change, depending on a number of factors.
The National Weather Service releases its own winter-weather forecast in mid-October, for example. And the KXAN First Warning Weather team will look to the month ahead (see its latest forecast for August), but the most reliable forecast is its daily writeup, which relies on the most up-to-date data.
How does the Farmers’ Almanac work?
KXAN Chief Meteorologist David Yeomans addressed the uncertainty surrounding Farmers’ Almanac predictions in a weather blog last year.
The Almanac isn’t transparent with how it makes its predictions, keeping it a “closely guarded brand secret,” according to its website. Its forecasters said they don’t use satellites or weather tracking equipment, instead relying on a formula created by an astronomer and mathematician in 1818.
“The formula takes into consideration things like sunspot activity, tidal action of the Moon, the position of the planets, and a variety of other factors,” the website states — something Yeomans explained are not relied on in the field of meteorology.
What does the Almanac show this year and how accurate was it last year?
In its predictions for 2023, the Farmers’ Almanac said the Texas area will see lots of cold temperatures and some storms will keep people in the area “busy” during the middle of January.
“There are indications that an El Niño, will be brewing in the latter half of 2023, lasting into the winter of 2024,” the Farmers’ Almanac said. “If we consider that alongside our tried-and-true forecast formula, it means that cold temperatures should prevail throughout the country and bring snow, sleet, and ice.”
Last winter, the Farmers’ Almanac predicted a chilly winter with normal precipitation for Texas. The winter was indeed cold, but our area ended up seeing more than 2 inches below average precipitation, according to KXAN meteorologists.
The first freeze of the cold season happened Dec. 18, 2022 and the last was Feb. 18, according to the KXAN weather team, which also noted 14 total freezes at Camp Mabry in Austin.
On the first day of astronomical winter, Dec. 21, 2022, Austin experienced its sixth consecutive cooler than average day while at the same time an Arctic front was moving down the Plains. By the next day, this powerful Arctic cold front from “once in a generation” plowed through Central Texas midday, dropping Camp Mabry’s temperature from 56° to 34° in one hour. Our second-ever wind chill warning was issued behind the cold front, with overcast skies and some light snow flurries in Marble Falls and Lampasas.
Dec. 23 brought the coldest morning since February 2021 with 8° temperatures in Gillespie and San Saba counties. As the wind chill warning continued, KXAN meteorologists noted some as chilly as -6° and wind chills of 3° at Camp Mabry. Freezing cold mornings continues for eight days in a row, as measured at the Austin airport.
A crippling ice storm also happened from Jan. 30-Feb. 3: the worst in Austin in recorded history which led to widespread power outages and millions in damages. The Texas A&M Forest Service estimated later it damaged 10.5 million trees in the Austin area, and the City of Austin ultimately collected nearlt 170,000 tons of debris.
KXAN Meteorologists David Yeomans and Sean Kelly contributed to this report.