If last winter's chill and heavy snowfall has you fearing an impending sequel, take a little heart in the latest forecast from the Old Farmer's Almanac.
According to the team behind the publication, which since 1792 has made advanced forecasts for the seasons, the 2018-2019 winter weather can best be summed up for most throughout the U.S. as "warm and wet."
"This winter, we expect to see above-normal temperatures almost everywhere in the United States, except in the Southwest, where we’re predicting a colder-than-normal season," they write. "Our milder-than-normal forecast is due to a decrease in solar activity and the expected arrival of a weak El Niño, which will prevent cold air masses from lingering in the North."
The Old Farmer's Almanac leans a bit more on the side of science for its forecasts. While the exact formula is still secret, much of it is based on solar activity, prevailing weather patterns and meteorology.
"It’s important to understand that our forecasts emphasize temperature and precipitation deviations from averages, or normals," they write. "These are based on 30-year statistical averages prepared by government meteorological agencies and updated every 10 years. The most recent tabulations span the period 1981 through 2010."
According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, a decrease in solar activity and a weak El Niño will contribute to colder-than-normal winter temperatures across Canada. (Photo: Old Farmer's Almanac)
Despite a claimed accuracy percentage of around 80 percent on Old Farmer's Almanac forecasts, meteorologists and science journalists are quick to encourage people to take these long-range predictions with a huge grain of salt.
"My guess is their success rate is more like half what they say," Jonathan Martin, chairman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, told NPR. "It's Middle Ages in terms of accuracy."
Others take issue with the Almanac's top-secret formula relying on solar activity.
"I can tell you it's not common meteorological practice [to use space weather as an indicator], based on my years of experience and research,” Marshall Shepherd, a former president of the American Meteorological Society and professor at the University of Georgia, told TIME. “Modern meteorological forecasting is based on models representing the atmosphere and physics over time. There is an inherent limit [to forecasting] of about 7 to 10 days."
Meanwhile, the Farmers' Almanac — which famously predicts seasonal weather based on sunspot activity, tidal action, planetary position and other "top secret mathematical and astronomical formulas" — doesn't agree with either the Old Farmer's Almanac or NOAA, otherwise known as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Their prediction for this winter?"Teeth-chattering cold" with plenty of snow — and they stand by their forecast.
Meteorologists nonetheless cannot help but gaze into their own crystal balls. A recent report by the National Weather Service estimated good odds for above-average temperatures in the Southwest and Northeast for the 2018-2019 winter.
The takeaway from all of this? Enjoy summer now while it's here. Whether warm and wet or cold and snowy, the temperamental months of winter will be upon us all very soon.
Editor's note: This story was originally published in early August 2018 and has been updated with more recent information.