Frigid, frosty, winter of the great divide.
Those words appear in the newest edition of the Farmers’ Almanac as it predicts an Alberta winter skiers might enjoy but those stuck shovelling out their cars might not as much.
“We are saying that it’s going to be a lot different than last year,” said Sandi Duncan, managing editor at Farmers’ Almanac.
“We do see a very cold and very snowy winter on tap.”
Duncan says across the country the weather will be a “mixed bag” since some of the more eastern sections of the country, as well as the eastern part of the province, won’t be quite as bad. But the middle and the western portions are going to see a lot of snow and a lot of cold temperatures, she said.
“We’re actually calling it a ‘winter of the great divide’ for the whole country, meaning that there’s going to be some crazy weather, pretty much where you guys are, but less crazy toward the east and a little bit less crazy toward the west, kind of a little bit drier,” Duncan said.
She added there could be a “wintry mix” of precipitation in Alberta.
“We’re more or less saying there’s ‘snow way out,’ with above normal snowfall for many parts of your province,” she said.
Historic prediction formula
The Farmers’ Almanac has been predicting long range weather since 1818. It uses a mathematical and astronomical formula that dates back just as long, too — though the formula has been lightly tweaked, Duncan says.
“We have a lot of history,” she said. “We do our best to kind of give people ideas how to prepare for the upcoming season.”
Duncan says it’s a closely guarded formula that’s based on things like sun spot activity, tidal action of the moon and position of the planets.
“People that follow our forecast say we’re about 70 to 80 per cent accurate,” she said.
This year, the Almanac also includes helpful tips for people at home. It includes a list of baking substitutes for those who are baking but run out of some ingredients.
There’s also planting guides on how to grow your own food along with dates of the first and last frost, tips on how to turn your backyard debris into a garden mound and banana recipes.
Hard to predict
Blaine Lowry, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, says while he can’t specifically comment on the Farmers’ Almanac predictions, temperatures predicted well in advance have potential to change.
That’s because of factors that affect weather and temperatures, like El Niño and La Niña, ocean phenomena that can indicate what future seasons — winter in particular — might look like.
“There’s some indications we could be trending towards La Niña,” he said, which would mean cooler than normal temperatures for the Prairies and varying precipitation.
“There’s other indications we could stay in the neutral phase that we’ve been in for the last year or two.”
Models are nearly split down the middle, he says, on what the most likely outcome is for the winter period.
“That’s why the official outlooks are only posted basically leading into the upcoming season because the farther out in time you go, the more uncertainty gets compounded on various factors that we use to try and predict that length of time,” Lowry said.
Environment Canada’s winter outlook won’t come out until Nov. 30.
For the fall on the Prairies, Lowry says the likelihood of warmer than normal temperatures is about 40 to 60 per cent probability in Alberta, depending on the area.
As for precipitation, he says there’s no indication one way or the other for most of the province, though there’s some hints of above normal precipitation in the far northeast (areas like Athabasca and Fort Chipewyan) and some indications of slightly less precipitation than normal in central Alberta, in places like Lloydminster and Coronation.
Lowry also says to keep in mind that temperature swings could cause the average to be skewed.
A case in point, he says, is the temperatures from this summer, which were mostly normal other than the major heat toward the end of July and through parts of August.
“Those 14 or 15 days of well above normal temperature were enough to skew the entire three-month period [to] above normal even though for the first month and a half … people were complaining that it wasn’t hot,” he said. “So that’s all it takes.”
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.