It's Almanac time again: let the guessing begin!

It's hot off the presses just in time to predict a terrible winter with all sorts of cold weather and massive snowstorms. Wait a minute. Doesn't The Old Farmer's Almanac predict that every winter? It seems that way. Actually, I haven't checked their forecast for this upcoming winter. But how do you expect to grab headlines and sell almanacs unless you predict gloom and doom?

The Old Farmer's Almanac is a fun book filled with all sorts of facts, astronomical happenings, gardening tips, etc. But they are most famous for their weather forecasts. They claim that their founder, Robert B. Thomas, in 1792, devised a way to foretell the weather by studying sunspots. His formulas have been updated over time and are now kept in a black box at the almanac's headquarters in Dublin, New Hampshire. Yes, I'm serious about the black box.

The best part about the almanac's weather predictions is their claim of accuracy. They peg it at 80% accuracy year after year. Back in the late 1980s, I interviewed the editor at the time, Jud Hale, when he visited Milwaukee. I asked him on camera how he could claim 80% accuracy. He simply winked at me and said "That's our tradition and I would never mess with tradition."

Okay, I get it. The whole weather prediction thing is a marketing idea. And a good one. But you can make your own almanac, too. Here's how: take a calendar of a future month and write down for each day a different weather word. For example, for October 1 write down "sunny". On the 2nd put down "windy". For the 3rd, perhaps "rainy", etc. Do this for the entire month. Then when those dates arrive, check what you predicted against the actual weather and see how well you did. You may be surprised that on a few days you hit the forecast perfectly. Eighty percent accurately? Not even close. But it's a fun exercise of chance.

I will give The Old Farmer's Almanac props for including a do-it-yourself forecasting chapter. It contains some accurate and worthwhile items about the atmosphere, and tells you how what you observe will help you predict upcoming weather. I highly recommend checking it out and trying their tips. The link is HERE.

By the way, if you don't enjoy The Old Farmer's Almanac's forecast, stay tuned. It's rival, the Farmers' Almanac, will be coming out soon with its 2012 version. Enjoy.