Brutal Winter? Almanac Could Be Wrong, NOAA Says: Page 2

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Another key factor NOAA uses to predict winter weather is a temperature and precipitation index called the North Atlantic Oscillation. But this weather pattern can only predict weather three to four weeks in advance, not months ahead of time, Artusa said.

Predicting weather events closer to when they actually occur is essential for providing people with forecasts that Artusa called "high skill." These forecasts use complex data sets to try to make highly accurate predictions. The furthest out NOAA can look while still considering their prediction "high skill" is three months, Artusa said.

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"We like to pursue [weather predictions] from a scientific standpoint," Artusa said. That means not engaging in broad speculation about what the weather may look like six months from now, he said.

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While the organization does make some long-term predictions, these outlooks are based mostly on historical data, not real-time data, according to Artusa.

Another way NOAA keeps its predictions scientifically accurate is by willingly admitting when forecasts were wrong. The organization does this by publishing its verification scores online. These scores indicate how accurate a specific forecast turned out to be.

The latest edition of the Farmers' Almanac makes an effort to draw attention to its own accuracy as well, pointing to its accurate prediction of last year's worse-than-average winter weather. But acknowledging when you were right is not the same thing as admitting when you were wrong.

"No one wants to show the forecasts that were missed," Artusa said.

As for the Almanac's chances of getting it right this time around, Artusa said that, like everyone else, there's a chance the book's forecasts will ring true. But for those who are dreading the coming winter, don't worry too much, Artusa said. There's also a chance, he added, that the Almanac got it wrong.

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