FORT KENT, Maine — Tired of the string of hot, humid, hazy days Maine is currently experiencing?
If so, be of good cheer. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac which just released its annual winter season predictions, much of New England will be under conditions quite the opposite of Tuesday’s weather where temperatures were expected to top out at or near 90 degrees.
In its 2015-2016 winter forecast, the publication is calling for normal snowfall and below-normal temperatures in New England.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac is considered the country’s oldest continually running periodical and is published in Dover, New Hampshire. It should not to be confused with The Farmers’ Almanac, which is published in Lewiston and due out next week.
According to the New Hampshire almanac, this coming winter will be colder than normal in New England, with the snowiest periods coming in mid to late November, late December and early to mid March.
These are similar to conditions the publication predicted last year for New England, right down to the snowiest periods but likely not as extreme.
By March of this past year , Portland had recorded 91 inches of snow, well above the average seasonal record of 52.7 inches. In Bangor as of March 128.6 inches of snow had fallen, more than double the seasonal average of 56.5 inches.
“The funny thing about Maine [this coming winter] is it is sort of split decision,” Janice Stillman, Old Farmers Almanac editor, said Tuesday. “From a line about Bangor north, temperatures this winter will be on the mild side, but that does not mean shorts and T-shirt weather this winter [and] the southern half of the state will see below normal temperatures on average.”
All of Maine has a good shot for a white Christmas, Stillman said, and snow could start falling around Thanksgiving.
“The only place we are forecasting a blizzard this year is in northern New England and Maine,” she said. “That would be near the end of February.”
On average, the Old Farmer’s Almanac is calling for a slightly below normal snowfall in northern Maine and slightly above normal in southern Maine.
“Keep those snow shovels sharp and handy,” Stillman said.
Published every year since 1792, The Old Farmers Almanac uses a combination of solar science (studying changes to sunspots and solar activity cycles), climatology (the study of weather over time) and meteorology (the scientific study of weather patterns) to come up with its long-range seasonal predictions.
Not everyone is convinced in the validity of the almanac’s prediction, and Stillman is well aware they have their fair share of detractors.
In a Washington Post online story, Marshall Shepherd, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Georgia, is quoted as saying weather forecasting is everything The Old Farmer’s Almanac is not.
“[Weather forecasting] is a rigorous and quantitative science steeped in physics, advanced math, fluid dynamics and thermodynamics,” Shepherd wrote in a piece for Forbes.
What the forecasters do at The Old Farmer’s Almanac is no different than what the meteorologists or mainstream climate scientists do when it comes to predicting weather, Stillman said.
“It’s what everybody does in the business — looking at land temperatures, ocean temperature and jet streams,” she said. “Just the same as the meteorologists [and] people in glass houses should not throw stones, or snowballs.”
Stillman said the Almanac differs in that it predicts weather far beyond the seven to 10 days of the National Weather Service forecasts and it does so by looking at historical trends as related to current weather, climate and atmospheric phenomena.
On average the weather predictions are about 80 percent accurate, she said. Last year they recorded a 96.3 percent accuracy rate nationwide for winter weather.
“What we really do is predict the deviations from the normal or averages for an area for the season,” she said. “But I also know there are a lot of people who look askance at what we do [and] that is often because they don’t know how we do it.”
At the National Weather Service office in Caribou, where temperatures were hovering near 80-degrees around noon Tuesday with a dewpoint of 70, Meteorologist Cory Bogel said any long-range information he has seen points to a winter very much like last year.
“I really don’t see anything right now that tilt the odds one way or the other,” he said.
The giant El Nino weather phenomenon — the warming of equatorial waters — ramping up over the Pacific Ocean will have little, if any, impact on Maine, Bogel said, but unrelated warming of the surface sea temperatures along the entire west coast might.
“For the past couple of winters, we have been stuck in a weather pattern with a big upper level system parked over the Great Lakes and New England which led to a cold and snowy pattern,” he said. “The conditions that created that — warm surface temperatures along the West Coast all the way up to Alaska — favor a similar pattern.”
For now, he said, Maine is stuck in the hot, humid weather for at least the next several days.
“This is one of the most depressingly humid days we have had this year,” Bogel said. “It’s about as oppressively humid as it can get in Maine.”
Conditions which, Stillman said, were predicted by the Old Farmer’s Almanac several months ago.