Bryce Wertz, 6, of Altoona launches a snowball Friday into the Ohio River from a slingshot outside the Carnegie Science Center. Friday was the museum’s annual Snowball Day, where visitors who have saved a snowball from the past winter are able to name their own price for admission to the center and then can hurl the snowballs into the river.
By Michael A. Fuoco / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Summertime, and the livin’ is ... steamy?
Welcome to Summer 2014 as The Old Farmer’s Almanac and its rival publication, the Farmers’ Almanac, forecast it.
Summer, which officially began at 6:51 a.m. today will be scorching hot and unbearably humid with thunderstorms soaking here and throughout the entire eastern section of the United States, the publications predict.
Wait. You don’t like that? Then perhaps you’d prefer the National Weather Service’s more temperate long-range prediction. Its forecast says the Pittsburgh region likely will have a typical summer for temperature and precipitation.
“It will probably end up being near normal. There are equal chances of above or below normal temperatures,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Lee Hendricks. “There are no real strong signals of a major pattern.”
Regardless of your preferred prognostication, there’s always this caveat to remember: “Trying to get any accurate forecast beyond seven days is pretty much impossible,” Mr. Hendricks pointed out.
Despite that, both almanacs were pretty much on target in predicting a really lousy winter for most of the country, including our region.
Conversely, the weather service’s long-range outlook wasn’t as accurate. Using climatology, large-scale atmospheric patterns and the potential effects of El Nino and La Nina, it predicted a milder than normal winter with about normal precipitation for our region.
You do remember our winter, right? It was the seventh-snowiest season from January through February — more than 2 feet above the normal season snowfall — and the 20th coldest on record, dating to 1871.
Sandi Duncan, managing editor of the Farmers’ Almanac, based in Maine, said readers give her publication an average accuracy rating of 80 percent to 85 percent, “but I think our winter forecast was spot on, taking us up to at least 95 percent.”
Published since 1818, the Farmers’ Almanac bases its forecasts on a secret mathematical and astronomical formula that includes sunspot activity, lunar cycles, planetary positions and many other factors.
Summer is going to be “oppressively humid, wet and thundery on the East Coast, pretty much east of the Mississippi River,” she said.
She noted that when the almanac published its dire winter forecast, she thought, “Well, OK, it’s winter. You expect it to be cold, but the prediction for a humid and wet summer depresses me a little more.”
Well, then, is she secretly hoping the forecast is wrong?
“Personally, yes. Professionally, no,” she said, chuckling.
Janice Stillman, editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, based in New Hampshire, said the publication’s winter forecast had an accuracy rate slightly above its average of 80 percent.
Published since 1792, the older of the two almanacs arrives at its forecasts through the study of sunspots and other solar activity; climatology, the study of historic weather patterns; and meteorology, the study of the atmosphere.
“We had a pretty good year,” she said, which, viewed in a different light, means we had a miserable one.
If the almanac’s “good year” continues, we’ll find ourselves on the opposite extreme, transported from a woeful winter to a sizzling summer.
“People will feel like they’re baking and broiling from the heat or stewing in sticky humidity and pop-up thunderstorms,” she said. “It’s going to be a summer to remember.”
Or one to forget, depending upon your perspective.
How hot and humid is it going to be? So much that “it might even make some people long for the snow to return,” Ms. Stillman said.
Now that’s hot and humid!
But admit it: In the throes of last winter’s bone-chilling temperatures and yet-to-be-shoveled snow, there were those of us who vowed, “I will never complain about it ever being too hot.”
Be careful what you wish for.
“It’s going to be scorching — hot, hot, hot,” Ms. Stillman said. “Maybe for a couple of minutes people might wish for winter again, maybe in the middle of July or a spell in August when it feels the heat will never end.
“It’s life. It’s inevitable that every summer we’re going to have miserably hot days. We love summer and the change of seasons and dread the next one coming, to a certain extent.”
She just might be right.
“I’ll give you a hint. Our 2015 edition will include a prediction for a very cold winter, and our meteorologist held back just a bit, so it could be even colder than that,” she said, laughing.
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