Winter is coming! Which prediction should you trust?

This blog was written by John D. Wilson, former Deputy Director for Regulatory Policy at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | October 20, 2017 | Climate Change, Extreme Weather

In the battle of the winter weather predictions, what a great showdown we have in store this year!

The “timeless” Farmers’ Almanac says, “the Southeast will see below normal winter temperatures with an unseasonable chill reaching as far south as the Gulf Coast, with above-average precipitation.” According to Mother Nature Network, its prediction is based on “sunspot activity, tidal action, planetary position, and other ‘top secret mathematical and astronomical formulas.'”

Don’t order new winter slickers just yet, though. The National Weather Service says the odds favor a warmer-than-average, drier-than-average winter. Yep, just the opposite.

Scientists tell us that our addiction to fossil fuels is gradually making winter wonderlands as scarce as an on-budget nuclear power plant. As the Washington Post reports,

Climate warming from rising concentrations of carbon dioxide is exerting an effect on winter temperatures, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center. “It does, undoubtedly, play a role,” he said in a call with reporters. “The increase in CO2 factors into our model forecast.”

Wait, just when you think you had an easy choice to make, there is also the Old Farmer’s Almanac – which splits the difference. It says the Southeast will be “milder-than-usual” (like the National Weather Service), but also wetter-than-usual.

Whose prediction should you trust? Well, as usual the answer depends on your politics! If your bias runs to the right politically, well then you’ve read past the quote from the government climate scientists to find some almanac affirmation from the Daily Caller. But if your bias runs to the left, don’t waste your money!

What does the data show? Well, as best I can tell, no one knows. As Penn State meteorologist Paul Knight observed in 2007 (yes, all the articles on this topic still quote him), the predictions are worded so imprecisely that it is “difficult to assess their accuracy.” All you graduate students out there, time to get your stats programs cranking and call this contest!

And for all you “none of the above” types out there, then it will be a cold, dry winter in the Southeast. Come on, those never happen! But otherwise, one of these three predictions is bound to be right!

U.S. Winter Outlook: NOAA forecasters predict cooler, wetter North and warmer, drier South
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