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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Category — Blog

Thunderstorm Rumblings

As we were expecting some storms in the Northeast earlier this week, I started thinking about how when I was a kid, I hated thunderstorms. Over the years, we had gone through our fair share of them on our family excursions to the Jersey Shore every summer, but I never got used to them. With some of the feistier ones, Dad would have to pull off to the side of the road to wait them out. And boy, were they feisty: high winds, hail, cloud-to-ground lightning. Yikes! They always scared me. They still do. My friends love them, and they often rib me for being a chicken, and regale me with tales of how they actually enjoy sitting outside on their front porches to watch a good storm roll in. No thank you.

Growing up, my sister and I survived the majority of summertime thunderstorms by huddling in our clothes closet, which we turned into a makeshift fallout shelter, during the really bad ones. And while our encampment stayed off the scary for the most part, I think the real appeal was that we enjoyed snuggling together with our flashlights, counting the one-Mississippis after each flash of lightning, with our hands over our ears, waiting for them to dissipate.

A lot of people think it’s silly that thunderstorms still make me uneasy.  (In fact, one recent memory stands out: I was staying at my brother’s place in Massachusetts, sleeping on a metal rollaway cot in front of an open window during a very strong thunderstorm. I decided to move it away from the window. My brother, ever the realist, mocked my taking precautions against a phantom lightning bolt that was going to come through the window and hit me in my metal bed. On cue, a bolt of lightning struck the house with a giant boom, setting off the internal alarm system that couldn’t be shut off without a circuit breaker. That was pretty much the end of the teasing). But I can state with certainty that I don’t seek shelter in my clothes closet anymore. Fortunately, as I’ve gotten older, the fear of those big storms has more or less turned into a healthy respect, and while I’m not about to go outside in metal shoes during one, I do find them fascinating.

While the statistics are low regarding annual deaths from lightning strikes, it’s still vital to take proper precautions. I think it’s very important to heed all warnings and follow the important rules for lightning safety (like, stay away from windows!).  Read our article on lightning safety here.

So while I was waiting to hear the sound of rumbling on the horizon, I realized that I was actually looking forward to a good thunderstorm. Probably because it means summer is still kicking around.

How about you? Thunderstorms: love them or loathe them? Tell us in the comments below!

We have a great article in the 2015 edition of the Farmers’ Almanac, “6 Ways To Ease Your Dog’s Fear of Thunder and Fireworks,” page 58. Check it out!

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2015 Here Already?!

2015 Here Already?!

While the New Year doesn’t officially start for another 4+ months, here at the Farmers’ Almanac offices it seems like 2015 arrived this week. The brand new edition of the Farmers’ Almanac, our 198th edition, hit the store shelves and got people talking. It’s always an exciting week for us, kind of like Christmas/New Year’s Eve holidays combined.

We eagerly await our Associated Press story about the new edition. This story acts like the proverbial snowball rolling down hill, meaning that once that story breaks, many other newspapers and radio and TV stations call us to talk about the new edition of the Almanac.

It’s a lot of fun to be interviewed about the Farmers’ Almanac as it serves as a great way to share some of the most interesting features and get feedback from all over North America. I’ve been very busy with many Canadian interviews this week and editor Peter Geiger has been hitting TV stations throughout New England.

The last week of August is always a busy and exciting time for the Farmers’ Almanac staff.

It also means winter is on its way. And after last winter, everyone is very interested in whether or not the polar vortex will return. (And, unless you haven’t logged onto our site or read the news this week, you know that our forecast consists of more “shivery and shovelry” for this winter.)

I hope you have an opportunity to check out our print edition of the Farmers’ Almanac this year. It does contain a very cold, shivery forecast for the winter ahead, but it also contains warm and informative articles on ways to live a more natural, happier, and enjoyable life.

We will try to keep you updated on when and where we may appear on TV or on your radio, but in the meantime remember: “When it snows you have two choices: shovel or make snow angels.”

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Signs Of A Rough Winter

The eastern part of the US has experienced unusually cool temperatures of late which makes me think about what might be in store for this fall and winter. In fact, many people are writing to ask. The question will be answered next week when we release our winter weather predictions for the US and Canada. In anticipation of our forecast, one only has to look around to see what the signs of nature are saying in your backyard.

Here are a few indictors of a rough winter:

Heavy and numerous fogs in August are a sign of a rough winter. How are the fogs in your area?

Unusual abundance of acorns – mine are dropping with gusto. What do you see?

Squirrels gather nuts early. Where there are acorns, there are squirrels.

Spiders spinning larger than normal webs.

We are only entering the time when we look for the signs of winter. Here’s a more extensive list.

If you see anything notable, let us know in the comments below!

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Looking Back At Winter 2014. We Told You So!

Looking Back At Winter 2014. We Told You So!

“Piercing;” “Biting;” “Bitterly;” “Frosty.” These are some of the terms we used to describe how cold we believed last winter’s weather would be, supporting our statement that “the days of shivery are back!”

And Shiver We Did!
Almanac readers and the media agreed that our predictions and warnings of a very cold winter for two-thirds of the country were on target. With the exception of parts of the Far West, particularly California, it was an incredibly cold and very stormy winter.

However, the bitterly cold winter seemed to have taken the government long-range forecasters completely by surprise. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center came up with a forecast that predicted temperatures would be “above normal from November 2013 through January 2014 across much of the lower 48 states.” They made their November through January prediction in October 2013. (We made ours in August.)

The Cold, Hard Facts
The three coldest months—December, January, and February—are regarded as “meteorological winter.” The winter of 2013–14 kicked off in December with several significant storms that impacted various parts of the nation. The contiguous U.S. snow cover was the eighth largest on record for the month.

In January, the average U.S. temperature was 30.3°F, or 0.1°F below the 20th-century average. The southeast quarter of the nation will never forget the storm of January 28th–30th, which caused massive travel disruptions, particularly in the Atlanta Metro area. Snow was observed as far south as the Florida panhandle. Chicago received 33.7-inches of snow during January, the third snowiest month on record for the Windy City.

In February, old man winter refused to let up: the average U.S. temperature was 32.2°F, or 1.6°F below the 20th-century average. Meteorological winter for 2013–14 as a whole averaged 1.0°F below normal.

Winter was cold and snowy across the Midwest, with Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin all experiencing a top-ten cold winter, and Detroit had its snowiest winter ever.

And the persistent cold during the winter caused 91% of the Great Lakes to be frozen by early March, the second largest ice cover on record.

How Our Forecasts Fared
In the 198 years of the Almanac’s history, I don’t think that we ever received as much interest and scrutiny about a single forecast than we did for Super Bowl XLVIII. Football’s biggest game was held on February 2nd at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey’s Meadowlands. It was the first time that a Super Bowl was to be played outdoors in a typically cold weather environment.

Our forecasts are made in three-day increments. The big game fell right smack in the middle of the February 1st–3rd timeframe, in which we called for a storm that could bring “. . . heavy rain, snow, and strong winds which could seriously impact the game.”

When the 2014 edition of our Almanac hit the newsstands on August 26, 2013, almost immediately a rumor went viral that we were forecasting a blizzard for the Super Bowl. And although we had actually forecast the potential for a storm within the 72-hour timeframe for February 1st to 3rd, many people were concerned that forecast was valid only for the three or so hours that the game would be played. Of course, we had to mention the possibility that a storm might adversely impact the Super Bowl, but we also pointed out that the storm could come the day before or the day after the game as well.

However, it was only eight hours after the big game ended, that a winter storm warning was in effect and moderate-to-heavy snow was falling. By 8 a.m. on Monday the 3rd, streets were a slushy mess and flights in and out of the three major New York airports were either delayed or canceled. Eight inches of snow ultimately fell on East Rutherford, New Jersey, the site of MetLife Stadium, which ironically had been a balmy 49° at kickoff. It was literally the calm before the storm. Or as ESPN noted: “The NFL dodged a blizzard.” Still not bad for a forecast that was initially crafted about 22 months earlier!

(Check out how we did with our Canadian weather predictions here.)

In fairness, we were not “spot on” everywhere. The warm and dry conditions experienced in California and the Southwest United States threw our forecast off slightly with a cool winter with near-normal precipitation. And over the Pacific Northwest we were banking overall on a drier-than-normal winter. That forecast looked promising during December into early January, but then the dry weather abruptly ended with a series of storms moving in from the Pacific.

Want to know what’s in store for this winter? We’ll be releasing our 2015 forecast next week. Watch our web site!

For more information on how our forecasts fared last year, be sure to read the 2015 Farmers’ Almanac. Now on sale!

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2014 Canadian Winter Review. We Told You So!

2014 Canadian Winter Review. We Told You So!

“Piercing Cold;” “Biting Cold”; “Bitterly Cold”; “Cold, Wet, & White.” These are some of the terms we used to define last winter’s weather, supporting our statement that “The Days of Shivery are Back!”

And Shiver We Did!
Almanac readers and the media agreed that our predictions and warnings of a very cold and snowy winter were on target. With the exception of Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon, it was an incredibly cold winter.

Below-average temperatures dominated across much of North America during the winter of 2013–2014. Some locations experienced temperatures as low as 5°C below the 1981–2010 average. Last year the infamous polar vortex frequently plunged temperatures to -20°C or lower, and an active storm track covered many cities and towns under mounds of snow. A cold and snowy pattern persisted into early spring.

The Cold, Hard Facts
The three coldest months—December, January, and February—are regarded as “meteorological winter.” The winter of 2013–14 kicked off in December with parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba experiencing temperatures 4 to 5.6°C below normal.

In January, a most interesting weather dichotomy developed. Across western Canada it was unseasonably warm with temperatures ranging from 4 to 11°C above normal. Meanwhile over eastern Canada, temperatures averaged 1/2 to 1°C below normal.

On to February and old man winter reasserted himself, bringing below-normal temperatures to more than 90% of Canada. With arctic air stalling over much of North America, temperatures in the Arctic were generally warmer than normal in February. The only section of the nation that experienced milder-than-normal temperatures was in the northern extremity of North America over the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Compared to seasonal norms, the coldest place in Earth’s atmosphere in February was over the southwestern corner of Canada’s Saskatchewan province near the town of Eston, where temperatures were as much as 4.7°C cooler than seasonal norms.

And the persistent cold during the winter caused 91% of the Great Lakes to be frozen by early March, the second largest ice cover on record.

How Our Forecasts Fared
We had warned of rain, ice, and snow for Ontario by Christmas Eve as mild air from the south overran cold air from the north, but the wintry precipitation arrived a few days ahead of schedule. Hydro One, which serves mostly rural areas, reported over 130,000 power outages at the height of the storm. The areas particularly hard hit include areas along the shores of Lake Ontario. In Trenton, which lies just east of the Greater Toronto Area, there was a reported 3cm of ice accumulation on the ground. The ice accumulation across southern and eastern Ontario was severe enough to result in widespread power outages due to fallen trees and branches, and numerous vehicle pile-ups on Highway 401. The town of Woolwich declared a state of emergency on December 22nd after it was determined that they would be without power for at least 24 hours. Elsewhere in Ontario, thousands of customers remained without power well after Christmas Day. Hundreds of thousands of Toronto residents woke up without electricity on December 22nd, after an overnight ice storm knocked down trees and power lines, causing outages across the city.

We were right on target with our forecast of a wintry coastal system for Quebec and the Maritimes in the January 1st–3rd timeframe. Parts of Newfoundland and Labrador saw up to 40cm of snow, while Nova Scotia received as much as 20cm.

In fairness, we were not “spot on” everywhere. Over British Columbia we were banking overall on a drier-than-normal winter. That forecast looked awfully good during December, but during January and February the dry weather abruptly ended with a series of storms moving in from the Pacific. Interestingly, however, one of the more significant of storms, that of January 9th–10th, was also a spot-on forecast for us. Those winter storms were welcome news for B.C. ski resorts which had been suffering through one of the barest winters in recent memory.

For even more information on how we did and what’s in store, order the 2015 Canadian edition, on sale now!

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Blame It On The Jet Stream

Blame It On The Jet Stream

With a little more than a month left until the official end of summer (but only 2 weeks until Labor Day), some of us may be wondering – what’s up with this summer’s weather?!

This morning it was a cool 52 degrees when I went for a walk at 6:00 a.m. in NJ.  It was beautiful but unusual.  In fact, I think I have only put my air conditioner on this summer for about 10 days, which I’m not complaining about, but it is a bit odd.

Well you can blame this cooler but enjoyable weather on the East Coast, and warmer than usual weather in the Pacific Northwest, on the jet stream. Its path this summer has thrown the normal summer heat off.  Many love it while others are wishing for temperatures above 90.

So does this mean anything for the winter ahead?

According to lore, “If a cold August follows a hot July, it foretells of a winter hard and dry.” (Of course July wasn’t too hot in many places.) But many meteorologists point out that it’s just the path of the jet stream and that it has nothing to do with the winter weather ahead.

But if you’re really interested in finding out just how cold this winter will be, we are releasing the Farmers’ Almanac’s official winter outlook next week. So stay tuned and in the meantime, check out this informative article on what the jet stream is.

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Get Outside And Look Up At Neptune

Get Outside And Look Up At Neptune

“Get Outside!”

Ever utter those words to your kids?  Or maybe even to yourself as you look longingly out the window while at work or finishing up chores?

Well this week there have been some great reasons to get outside and look up! The beginning of this week featured the Perseid meteor showers, and starting on August 14th, the planet Neptune will be the brightest and best seen during early mornings until August 28, 2014.

Neptune is hard to spot with the naked eye but you should be able to view it through binoculars or a telescope and even see its blue tint. In 2014, Neptune can be found near the constellation Aquarius.

Learn more about Neptune including how it came to be named and how many moons it really has here.

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Summer’s Supermoon

Summer’s Supermoon

Twice each month, the Sun, Earth and Moon form a straight (or nearly straight) line in space, called a “syzygy.”  At these times, the Moon is either at full or new phase and we can expect tides to run somewhat higher than normal.  Twice each year, once at full and once at new phase, the Moon will also be very near perigee, its closest point to the Earth.  These perigee Moons can produce the highest tides of the year.

On August 10th at 2 p.m. EDT, the Moon will arrive at its closest point to the Earth in 2014:  a perigee distance of 221,765 miles away.  Just nine minutes later, the Moon will officially turn full.  Though full Moon theoretically lasts just a moment, the moment is imperceptible to ordinary observation, and for a day or two before and after most will speak of seeing the nearly full Moon as “full” (the shaded strip is so narrow, and changing in apparent width so slowly, that it is hard for the naked eye to tell whether it’s present or on which side it is).

The near coincidence of the August 10th full Moon with perigee will result in a dramatically large range of high and low ocean tides.  Any coastal storm at sea around this time will almost certainly aggravate coastal flooding problems.  Such an extreme tide is known as a perigean spring tide, the word spring being derived from the German springen – to “spring up,” not a reference to the spring season.

Every month, “spring tides” occur when the Moon is full and new.  At these times the Moon and Sun form a line with the Earth, so their tidal effects add together.  (The Sun exerts a little less than half the tidal force of the Moon.) “Neap tides,” on the other hand, occur when the Moon is at first and last quarter and works cross-purposes with the Sun.  At these times tides are weak.

For those who are well versed in mathematics, tidal force varies as the inverse cube of an objects distance. This month the Moon is 12.2 percent closer at perigee than it was at its extreme apogee – its farthest point from Earth in 2014 – on July 27. Therefore, on August 10th, the Moon will exert about 42 percent more tidal force compared to the spring tides just two weeks earlier.

The 2014 Observer’s Handbook of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada refers to the August 10th Moon as the “largest full Moon in 2014,” – in recent years, a popular connotation for a full Moon that coincides with perigee has been “Supermoon” – the variation of the Moon’s distance is not readily apparent to observers viewing the Moon directly.  To those living near the Bay of Fundy in eastern Canada, however, the rapid increase in the vertical tidal range of as much as 20 feet or more makes it quite obvious when the Moon is near perigee, whether the sky is clear or cloudy!

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It’s A Good Week To Explore Your Local Farmers Markets

It’s A Good Week To Explore Your Local Farmers Markets

Our country was founded on agriculture. Virtually everyone grew their own food for their families or sold it to merchants for resale. It is only fitting that August 3 – 9 is National Farmers Market Week.

At Farmers’ Almanac, we have long-championed growing your own food. We’ve offered advice on creating raised gardens in your yard, growing tomatoes on the balcony of a New York City apartment, or planting vegetables on top of a skyscraper in Chicago. There is something empowering about taking a seed and reaping the rewards a few weeks later.

In reality, many of us aren’t going to grow our own food or plant the full variety of produce that can be grown. That’s where community farmers markets come in. What started as a small effort is now 8,000+ strong throughout the United States. You can find farmers markets in major cities and small towns. In Lewiston, Maine, a farmers market sets up shop at our offices on Thursdays from 12 – 2 p.m. When you buy locally, you support local farm families, thus strengthening the community in which you live.

It is one thing to go through the produce section of your supermarket and quite another to visit a farmers market and see, feel, and smell the wide variety of items available. It brings out the child in us as we explore some greens that we never knew existed. Best of all, you can feed your family as well as we did centuries ago when we were all farmers.

So, this is National Farmers Market Week. Interested? Check out this link to find a market near you.

 

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.