The Old Farmer's Almanac has maintained for years that its long-range forecasts are about 80% accurate. We'll leave that to you to judge, but we know one thing is certain: Minnesotans love finding out what the almanac predicts for our winters.
There is no sense in going on and on before telling you the details, so here goes:
"In the Upper Midwest (Minnesota and Wisconsin and northern Michigan), snowfall will be above normal. In the eastern Dakotas, snowfall will be below normal," the Old Farmer's Almanac says. "The snowiest periods will be in late December, early and late January, late February, and early March."
Above. Normal. Snowfall.
What's more is that the prediction calls for temperatures to warmer than average, though the "coldest periods will come in December as well as late January and late February."
Because of those warmer than normal temps and above normal precipitation, the long-range forecast calls for "more wet than white" conditions, with bouts of chilly rain possible throughout the winter.
The average high temperature in the Twin Cities in December is 26 degrees, and just 22 in January and 28 in February.
"I know people want to believe in the ‘mystical powers’ of a secret forecast formula that’s been around for hundreds of years but the truth is their forecasts are no more accurate than anything from the Climate Prediction Center," said BMTN meteorologist Sven Sundgaard.
"In fact, we can’t measure accuracy because they don’t quantify anything. Good science publishes their methods, data and results, and allows others to peer review it. I would definitely trust the wisdom of some old farmers though rather than the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Those who watch day-to-day weather through all the seasons for decades definitely know a thing or two."
That said, the Climate Prediction Center's (CPC) long-range forecast is similar to what the Old Farmer's Almanac is saying, with the December, January, February and March period currently forecast to have equal chances for above or below normal temps and a 30-40% chance for above normal precipitation in Minnesota.
"There does seem to be some indication of above normal winter precipitation in the models we use that go out months," said Sundgaard. "They [CPC] also are trending toward warmer than normal temps. Of course the balance is here: if it’s too mild, then we see too much mixed precipitation but if we strike the right balance of say February temps that are just 1-3 degrees above, we could have some decent snows. Making predictions in 2020 six months out though seems very risky."
Last year, the Old Farmer's Almanac predicted a "parade of snowstorms" for Minnesota.
Did it verify? Well, kinda. Duluth got hammered last winter, but the forecast didn't come close to accurate for the Twin Cities, which saw just 51.5 inches of snow after back-to-back winters of nearly 80 inches.
In fact, MSP Airport recorded just three snowfalls of 5+ inches last winter. The five biggest snowfalls in the Twin Cities from winter 2019-20:
- Nov. 26-27: 9.2 inches
- April 12: 6.6 inches
- Feb. 9-10: 5.0 inches
- Dec. 30: 4.9 inches
- Jan. 17: 4.7 inches
The Twin Cities had just 1.3 inches of snow in all of March 2020, which is a far cry from the annual March average of 10.2 inches, according to the state climatology office.
The Farmers' Almanac, which is different than the Old Farmer's Almanac, has yet to unveil its 2020-21 winter forecast.