Column: Predicting weather with the The Old Farmer’s Almanac

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 17, 2003

One sure sign that both winter and another new year are fairly imminent can be found in various stores out here between the cornrows that now have the latest copies of “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” for sale. In fact, the 2004 issue is the 212th edition of this famous publication.

There’s an overwhelming amount of worthwhile information and trivia material to be found in the booklet that started becoming a part of American life in 1792.

And one not so trivial item that may surprise some local boosters is the fact that Albert Lea is one of the few American and Canadian cities “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” uses for the time correction tables on page 170. That’s a distinction not shared with Austin, Mason City, Mankato, Faribault or even Rochester.

Email newsletter signup

Albert Lea’s position on the North American continent, according to the almanac, is 43 degrees and 39 minutes latitude north of the equator and 93 degrees and 22 minutes longitude west of Greenwich Meridian.

If the people in those other cities want to know the times of sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset, and the rising and setting of the planets, then they have to use the Almanac’s calculation based on the Albert Lea listing.

One thing farmers and others have always used this Almanac for is future long-range weather predictions. With this in mind, here’s what I’ve gleaned from the 2004 edition regarding the coming winter weather in this specific part of the nation. Incidentally, their predictions start in November 2003 because that’s about the time most folks start buying and using the new almanacs.

And what is this almanac forecasting for the coming winter in this region? As I will explain, this publication actually offers two predictions.

One is based on what they call Region 10 &045; Northern Great Plains – Great Lakes. This region is based on the eastern parts of Wyoming and Montana, all of North and South Dakota and Minnesota, the northern part of Wisconsin, and all the upper portion of Michigan.

The temperature and precipitation will be normal for November, below normal in December and January, and about normal for February. March will have above normal temperature and below normal precipitation. April will have above normal precipitation.

&uot;In Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas, temperatures will be a bit above normal, with near normal snowfall … Watch for heavy snow in mid-April,&uot; is how the almanac summarizes this weather for this part of the region. The first snowfall is supposed to come between Nov. 9 to 12. That heavy snow should come between April 10-14.

However, Freeborn County and Albert Lea are on the edge of the ledge between two of the almanac’s regions. If the entire county could be shifted just 24 miles further south, then we could avoid those brutal Minnesota winters. (Just kidding, folks.)

That other region in the almanac is the Central Great Plains. It consists of all of Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, and parts of Colorado and Illinois. The almanac says they (and maybe our area) can &uot;expect the snowiest period in mid- to late November, near Thanksgiving, in mid – and late January and in late February …wet snow will accumulate in mid-April in Iowa…: &uot; First snow could come from Nov. 19 to 22, and April 11 to 15 will reportedly have either snow or rain in this region.

I’m not sure if we can blend the forecasts for these two regions for our coming weather, Anyway, let’s just see what evolves for weather this winter.

The Old Farmers Almanac is the oldest continuously published periodical in North America. It seems to have a dab of something worthwhile for just about everyone. Besides the long-range weather forecasting and an amazing array of astronomical information, the 2004 edition features topics like a tribute to ice cream, a brief history of napping, and four ways to use zucchini. As a bonus, the new edition has a 32-page section called Gardener’s Companion Magazine.

(Tribune feature writer Ed Shannon’s column appears Fridays in the Tribune.)