How much snow will we get this winter? Here's what the Old Farmer's Almanac predicts

Victoria E. Freile
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

With fall officially underway in New York, many are curious what Mother Nature will deliver this winter.

The 2022 Old Farmer's Almanac predicts “a season of shivers” this winter punctuated with bone-chilling, below-average temperatures across most of the country.

"This coming winter could well be one of the longest and coldest that we’ve seen in years,” said Janice Stillman, editor of the almanac, which has been published since 1792.

Stillman said higher-than-normal amounts of snow are expected in parts of New England and throughout the Ohio Valley, in northern portions of the deep South, along a track from eastern Montana south through the western Dakotas and into northeastern Colorado and southeast New Mexico. There was no specific mention of New York.

But the Old Farmer's Almanac website map outlines a “cold and snowy” winter for a sliver of western New York, near Lake Erie, as well as the New York City area, and a “cold and dry” winter for much of the rest of New York state.

According to the almanac, the prediction said that in the lower lakes region (which includes Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse), the winter's coldest temperatures are expected in mid- to late November, through most of December and January, and in early to mid-February.

Snowfall will be near normal in most areas and the snowiest periods are expected be in late November, mid- and late December, early and mid- to late January, early to mid-February and mid-March.

Old Farmer's Almanac predictions for New York

Snow came down quickly Tuesday morning making the day's commute slow with the slippery. roads.  Two snow blowers were used to clear the sidewalk around the building on Platt and Mill Sts.

According to the almanac, here's the prediction for other parts of New York:

  • In Utica and Albany, both within the northeast region, winter "will be colder than normal," with near- to below-normal snowfall. The coldest periods are expected to be in early December, early to mid- and late January, and mid-February, with the snowiest periods predicted to be in mid- to late December, early January, and early and mid-February.
  • In Elmira, Binghamton and Ithaca, all part of the Appalachians region, winter "will be colder and drier than normal," with near-normal snowfall. The coldest periods are expected to be in early, mid-, and late December; through much of January; and in early and mid-February. The snowiest periods are predicted to be in early December, early January, and mid-February. 
  • In the New York City area, which is part of the Atlantic corridor region, temperatures and precipitation are predicted to be below normal, with above-normal snowfall. The coldest periods are expected to be in early, mid-, and late December; mid-January; and early to mid-February. The snowiest periods are predicted to occur in mid- and late December, from early to mid-January, and in mid-March.  

According to its website, the almanac makes long-range forecasts using solar science, the study of sunspots and other solar activity; climatology, the study of prevailing weather patterns; and meteorology, the study of the atmosphere.

“We predict weather trends and events by comparing solar patterns and historical weather conditions with current solar activity,” the website states. “Our forecasts emphasize temperature and precipitation deviations from averages, or normals. These are based on 30-year statistical averages prepared by government meteorological agencies.”

Last winter, 69.6 inches of snow fell in Rochester, with the snowiest month of February tallying 29.9 inches at the Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport, according to the National Weather Service in Buffalo. The normal seasonal snowfall average is around 100 inches.

Rochester's snowiest season in the last two decades was in 2002-03, when 135.2 inches fell. The least snowy season was one year earlier, when only 58.1 inches fell, according to the Weather Service. 

While flurries often fly in Rochester as early as October, the first measurable snowfall of the season typically lands in November. Snow can fall here as late as May, though it is uncommon.

How accurate is the Old Farmer's Almanac? 

How accurate was the almanac's forecast last winter? It said the 2020-21 winter season would bring warmer-than-average temperatures across the eastern and northern parts of the United States. It considers its temperature prediction for the northeast a miss although it was "close to predicting the proper temperature trends."

According to the Weather Service, the monthly temperature averages in Rochester last winter were between 2 and 5 degrees above normal for most of last winter. One exception was in February, when the month's temperature average was 2.5 degrees below normal.

The almanac reported its overall accuracy rate for the U.S. last winter was lower than most years.

“Specifically, the accuracy rate in forecasting the change in temperature versus the previous winter across all 18 regions of the U.S. was 72.2%, while our accuracy rate in forecasting the change in precipitation was 77.8% This is below are traditional average rate of 80%,” the website states.

But a study at the University of Illinois said the almanac’s accuracy is closer to a coin toss.

Professor emeritus John Walsh in the university’s department of atmospheric sciences conducted a study testing the accuracy of the almanac’s monthly temperatures and precipitation forecasts by comparing them with the actual weather data over a five-year period. 

“Results of this study found that 51.9% of the monthly precipitation forecasts and 50.7% of the monthly temperature forecasts were accurate, concluding that these percentages are similar to the 50% success rate expected by chance,” according to the University of Illinois extension service website.

Contact Victoria Freile at vfreile@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @vfreile and Instagram @vfreile. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers.