What Kind of Weather Can We Expect This Winter?

Someone, somewhere will definitely have snow.

woman sheltering under umbrella in a snow storm
The almanacs agree that the Northeast will be cold and snowy. Andrew Bret Wallis / Getty Images

You just want to know whether to stock up on salt and other snow supplies for the winter. But some of the big names in long-range winter weather prediction aren’t making it easy.

The Farmers' Almanac and The Old Farmer's Almanac have clashing winter forecasts this year. Although the leaves have barely started turning, they’ve offered their predictions for the colder months.

Here’s what they predict for the winter months ahead.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Old Farmer's Almanac US forecast winter 2020-2021
The winter forecast isn't too extreme for most of the U.S. The Old Farmer's Almanac 

Rising temperature trends mean that overall the winter won’t be extremely cold, say the forecasters at the Old Farmer’s Almanac. They predict a light winter for most of the U.S. with warmer-than-normal temperatures for a large part of the country. They expect things to be "not so cold, not too wet" in most of the South and even "gorgeous" in Florida. Only the western U.S. and New England will have unusually cold temperatures. 

As far as rain and snow, “expect ‘wet’ to be a wintertime constant, with rain or average to below-average snowfall to be the standard throughout most of the country,” the almanac forecasters predict.

The Northeast, Wisconsin, Upper Michigan, the High Plains, and Northern Alaska will be the only spots with more snowfall than normal. Everywhere else should have below normal snowfall.

Old Farmer's Almanac map for Canada
Except cold and snow for most of Canada.  The Old Farmer's Almanac

In Canada, “expect frigid and frosty weather” with below-normal winter temperatures through most of the country. According to almanac forecasters, most of Canada can expect lots of rain, snow, and sleet, with more snowfall than usual predicted from Quebec through most of the Prairies.

Farmers’ Almanac

Farmers' Almanac winter map
Expect cold and above normal snowfall for a big chunk of the country.  Farmers' Almanac

“Cold and snowy in the north. Drought in the west. And everything crazy in between!” predicts the Farmers’ Almanac, calling it the "Winter of the Great Divide." This forecast calls for above-normal snowfall for a big chunk of the U.S., including Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, as well as parts of Washington, Oregon, the Dakotas, Colorado, and Utah.

Temperatures will be chillier than normal in the Southeast. Areas from the Great Lakes and Midwest, westward through the Northern and Central Plains, and Rockies expect normal to below-normal temperatures.

And while the Northeast was nearly snow-free last winter, this year forecasters predict a snowy comeback with a blizzard hitting in mid-February, dumping up to two feet of snow.

“This storm may bring up to 1-2 feet of snow to cities from Washington, D.C. to Boston, Massachusetts!” the almanac forecasts.

In New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma Arkansas, and Louisiana, “Mother Nature will mix intervals of tranquil weather with occasional shots of cold and wintry precipitation but overall may seem to be a bit ‘temperamental,’” according to the almanac.

Canadian Farmers' Almanac
It's a divisive winter in Canada, forecasters say.  Canadian Farmers' Almanac

The Canadian Farmers' Almanac has described this year's as, "Wet, white, and wild in the West, everything crazy in the East.”

Although temperatures are predicted to be average to mild in the west through middle of the country, lots of snow, ice, and rain is expected. Much colder temperatures are expected through much of the rest of the country withabover average snowfall, and a little bit of everything in the East.

About Those Predictions

Both almanacs have been predicting weather for at least 200 years. They use different methods of weather prognostication and closely guard their secret weather prediction formulas. Both predict an accuracy rate of at least 80%, although most meteorologists are skeptical of any forecasts that go beyond 10 days.

The Old Farmer's Almanac uses a formula based on solar activity, prevailing weather patterns, and meteorology to make forecasts. It's evolved from a secret formula created by founder Robert B. Thomas in 1792, when George Washington was president.

"Although neither we nor any other forecasters have as yet gained sufficient insight into the mysteries of the universe to predict the weather with total accuracy, our results are often very close to our traditional claim of 80 percent," they write.

In fact, they say last year's 2019-2020 winter forecast was 80.5% accurate.

The Farmers' Almanac claims an accuracy rate of between 80% and 85%. The forecasts involve factors such as sunspot activity, tidal action of the moon, and the position of the planets. The editors deny using any type of computer satellite-tracking equipment, weather lore, or groundhogs. The lone person who knows the exact formula is the almanac's weather forecasters who uses the pseudonym Caleb Weatherbee.

Weatherbee claims to have nailed parts of last year's "polar coaster" winter prediction.