Farmers' Almanac predicts mild winter for Wisconsin

Adam Young & Colleen Kottke

It's early September and temperatures in Wisconsin definitely feel like fall.

While most farmers are hoping for a long, Indian summer they are also pondering what Mother Nature will send our way during the coming winter months.

The Farmers' Almanac provides a sneak peek of this year's winter in its new annual long range forecast for the U.S. and Canada. This year's prediction — "A milder than normal winter with above-normal precipitation and snowfall."

In the southern third of Wisconsin, the Almanac said: 

Wisconsin residents dig out after a storm spread snow through the much of the Midwest in early March 2017.

"The coldest periods will be from late November into early December, from late December into early January and in early February."

However, in the upper Midwest, which includes or the northern two-thirds of the state, "Winter will be warmer than normal, with the coldest periods in late November, early and late December, early January, and early February."

Precipitation and snowfall is expected to be below normal, with the snowiest periods in mid- to late December and early to mid-February.

According to the National Weather Service's data, Winter 2016/2017 was the tale of 2 winters.

December was characterized by normal temperatures and above normal snowfall. In fact, the majority of the snowfall for the season fell in December.

The Dec-Jan-Feb winter season as a whole ended up being the tenth warmest on record at Milwaukee.

January, and especially February were characterized by extreme warmth and well below normal snowfall. In fact, the warmest temperatures ever recorded in the winter months were observed on February 22 at both Milwaukee and Madison.

Hailey Norstrud, of Kanawha, sweeps snow off the Cabin Coffee company car in Clear Lake, Iowa, before she made coffee deliveries to area businesses on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. The area received several inches of snow overnight.

Total precipitation for the winter was actually just a bit above normal, but all of the warmth in January and February led to much below normal snowfall. In fact, February 2017 was the  fifth least snowy February on record at Milwaukee.

The Farmers' Almanac — which was founded in 1818 and serves as a reference to weather forecasts, planting charts and astronomical data, among other topics — predicated last yearthat Iowa's winter would be "milder and drier than normal, with near- to above-normal snowfall."

So how do they do it?

The Farmers' Almanac uses a formula that's both "mathematical and astronomical," where it takes "things like sunspot activity, tidal action of the Moon, position of the planets, and a variety of other factors into consideration," the Farmers' Almanac said.

Who all knows how this formula works?

Just one person, who goes by the pseudonym of Caleb Weatherbee — the Farmers' Almanac's weather prognosticator.

"To protect this proprietary and reliable formula, the editors of the Farmers’ Almanac prefer to keep both Caleb’s true identity and the formula a closely guarded brand secret," the Farmers' Almanac said.

A snowy owl sits in a corn field during a gentle snow fall.

But how accurate are they?

The Farmers' Almanac claims that many of its longtime followers say the forecasts are 80-85 percent accurate.

In 2014, according to, the Farmers' Almanac said: 

"We believe that nothing in the universe happens haphazardly, that there is a cause-and-effect pattern to all phenomena. However, 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 almost always very close to our traditional claim of 80 percent."

Learn more about the rest of 2018's weather outlook and more from this year's Farmers' Almanac report here.

Adam Young writes for the DesMoines Register