LEWISTON, Maine – Keep your boots, long johns and snow shovels handy this winter if you live in the East, the Farmers' Almanac's forecast suggests. Residents of the West, however, can look forward to a milder winter this time around.
"Mother Nature is going to be sort of two-faced," almanac editor Peter Geiger said.
The almanac's 2008 edition, which goes on sale Tuesday, foresees plenty of snow across the Northeast, temperatures averaging as much as 3 degrees below normal along most of the Atlantic Coast, and four major frosts as far south as Florida. The Great Lakes region will also take a pounding.
The outlook is tamer for the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains, the desert Southwest and the Pacific Coast, but Geiger said snow in Colorado will be more than adequate for skiing.
Other predictions include a cool, wet spring in many places, active tornado and hurricane seasons and a warmer-than-normal summer in much of the country.
The forecasts are prepared two years in advance by the almanac's reclusive prognosticator, who goes by the pseudonym Caleb Weatherbee and uses a secret formula based on sunspots, the position of the planets and the tidal action of the moon. Weatherbee has already completed his 2009 forecast, Geiger said.
The 191-year-old almanac's winter forecast is at odds with the federal government's outlook, which is based largely on statistical trends. For the coming winter, those trends point to above normal temperatures in the East and the Southwest, with drier than average weather along the southern tier of states and up the East Coast into Virginia.
Last year's almanac forecast of a colder than normal winter was off the mark at first. Geiger blamed an unforeseen El Nino that made for quiet conditions in the East before a series of heavy snowstorms struck in February and March.
Even so, the almanac claims an overall 80 to 85 percent accuracy rate, and says readers have long relied on its forecasts in planning family reunions, company picnics and weddings.
"We've been called a bride's best friend," Geiger said.
The almanac, not to be confused with the New Hampshire-based Old Farmer's Almanac founded 26 years earlier, claims a circulation of about 5 million. Most are sold to businesses that give them away as promotions.