Decoding The Allure Of The Almanac

There's been something wacky with the weather this winter, and many forecasters never saw it coming. Among them was The Old Farmer's Almanac, the quirky, centuries-old mix of historical data, prognostications and folk wisdom. Millions of people consult the almanac, which uses a secret formula to come up with its annual, yearlong weather forecasts, even though meteorologists say it has a dubious track record.

A few years ago, Penn State meteorologist Paul Knight and some colleagues examined the almanac's weather predictions from 1996 to 2004.

"Some months they were pretty good, some months they were pretty bad," Knight says. As for the claim of 80 percent accuracy? "It is just not possible to do that consistently," he says.

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NPR: National Public Radio