What's the Difference Between the Farmers' Almanac and the Old Farmer's Almanac?

For years, farmers relied on almanacs to help them decide when to plant and when to harvest. I. Pilon/Shutterstock

When it comes to winter snow or spring rains. people often turn to farmers for predictions. Both the Old Farmer's Almanac and the Farmers' Almanac have been predicting weather for at least 200 years. The almanacs use somewhat different methods of weather prognostication and have divided the climate regions of the country in different ways, and they each have their followings.

Although most meteorologists are skeptical of any forecast that goes past 10 days, these almanacs believe in more long-range predictions. They closely guard their secret weather prediction formulas and supplement their forecasts with calendars, mugs and other products, often with witty quips.

As Robert B. Thomas, founder of The Old Farmer's Almanac, said, "Our main endeavor is to be useful, but with a pleasant degree of humor."

Here's a look at the history, prediction models and other differences between the two publications.

The Old Farmer's Almanac

The Old Farmer's Almanac
In addition to forecasts, offers recipes, information on the night skies and gardening tips. The Old Farmer's Almanac

Established: 1792

Founder: Robert B. Thomas

Based: Dublin, New Hampshire

How predictions are made: Thomas believed Earth's weather was influenced by magnetic storms on the surface of the sun. He developed a secret weather prediction formula based on that belief. Notes about that formula are locked in a black box in the almanac's offices.

The formula has been refined over the years to include more scientific calculations. The almanac now uses three disciplines to make long-range predictions:

  • solar science, the study of sunspots and other solar activity
  • climatology, the study of prevailing weather patterns
  • meteorology, the study of the atmosphere

Claimed accuracy rate: 80 percent — though modern meteorologists would raise an eyebrow at that number.

Predictions made: up to 18 months in advance for 18 regions in the U.S. and seven in Canada

Farmers' Almanac

Farmers Almanac
The offers long-range weather advice as well as humor and tips on gardening, cooking and fishing. Farmers' Almanac

Established: 1818

Founder: David Young

Based: Lewiston, Maine

How predictions are made: The formula takes into consideration things like sunspot activity, tidal action of the moon, the position of the planets and a variety of other factors. The editors deny using any type of computer satellite-tracking equipment, weather lore or groundhogs. The only person who knows the exact formula is the almanac's weather prognosticator who goes by the pseudonym Caleb Weatherbee.

Claimed accuracy rate: 80 to 85 percent — though modern meteorologists would say otherwise.

Predictions made: 16 months in advance for seven climate zones in the U.S. and five in Canada