Q: I see the long-range forecast is out from the “Farmerâ€™s Almanacâ€ and it predicts a very cold winter for most of the country. How accurate is long-range forecasting?
A: It depends on exactly what you mean by “long range,â€ says Brent McRoberts of Texas A&M University. “On forecasts within the next 24 hours, forecasts are usually very accurate,â€ he says. “Forecasts made between 1-3 days are usually pretty good. But beyond seven days or so, the accuracy rate tends to slip because factors that make up a forecast tend to change. So the shorter the time period, the more accurate the forecast. Itâ€™s interesting to note that â€˜The Old Farmerâ€™s Almanac,â€™ now in its 223rd year and one of the oldest publications in the country, makes up its weather forecasts about a year in advance, and it claims to have an 80 percent accuracy rate. It uses a â€˜secretâ€™ method of weather forecasting that itâ€™s used for over 200 years that includes sun spots, ocean currents and many other factors.â€
Q: So long-range forecasts are nothing new, correct?
A: Weather forecasting has been around longer than you might think, says McRoberts. “The U.S. government started weather forecasting in the 1870s when Congress established a National Weather Service,â€ explains McRoberts. “It was aimed primarily for military uses. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was established in 1970 and has under it a number of agencies, among them the National Weather Service. But the goal was still the same â€“ trying to give an accurate prediction of weather forecasting. Weather forecasting is done to predict long ranges, such as a year or more, or sometimes a season, such as summer, or the kind we are most familiar with, the four- or five-day forecast. Meteorologists use various charts based on air currents, fronts, satellite images and other data to make their forecasts.â€