Two Bangor residents shovel snow during an unseasonably warm, mid-30 degree, day in this February 2021 photo. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

What kind of winter will it be?

Well, according to the weather prognosticators at the Lewiston-based Farmers’ Almanac, it’s going to be a so-called “frosty flip-flop winter,” with a stormy, snowy and cold January in the Northeast followed by a more placid February and a colder-than-normal March.

“It’ll be one of those see-saw winters,” Pete Geiger, the editor of the almanac, which has been published every year since 1818, said Monday. “Last winter we had a bit of a break, in terms of the intensity of the winter. I think this year it’ll probably be about normal temperatures. I think what you’ll see is warm spells to cold spells. I do think it’ll be a flip and a flop.”

And while it might seem impossible to predict the weather so far in advance with any certainty, there is a method, he said, and it works pretty well most of the time.  

The almanac’s proprietary weather formula was developed by David Young, its first editor, who also was a mathematician, astronomer and farmer. His formula allowed him to predict the weather two years in advance, and although it sounds hard to believe for a nation accustomed to the science of meteorology, Geiger said the formula has a success rate of between 80 and 85 percent.

Last winter, however, was not the almanac’s finest hour for weather predictions, at least in Maine. The snowy, cold winter forecasted did not materialize, and the lack of a snowpack helped nudge the state into drought conditions.

But the United States is a big place, and the almanac got it right in other regions, including accurately predicting the snow, ice and deep freeze in mid-February that brought Texas to a standstill.

The Farmers’ Almanac also predicted that New England, including Maine, would see a fair amount of rain this summer — a forecast that, at least in many parts of the state, has been accurate.

“We don’t hit them all … but I think we do a pretty good job,” Geiger said. “I think people look to the almanac to plan what their winter will be like. We’re sort of good for the long-range predictions.”

The Old Farmer’s Almanac, based in Dublin, New Hampshire and first published in 1792, also does long-range weather predictions. According to its forecast, winter in the Northeast will be colder than normal, on average, with near- to below-normal snowfall. The coldest periods will be in early December, the month of January and mid-February, with the snowiest periods in mid- to late December, early January and early and mid-February.

Weather predictions aren’t the only things of note in the almanacs. The Farmers’ Almanac includes information about upcoming eclipses, full moon dates and other astronomical events, along with recipes, gardening tips, how to make soap and much more.

“With the pandemic, we’ve tried to help people become more self-sufficient,” Geiger said. “We try to evolve with the times, whether it’s planting information or moon phases.

“I’m pretty happy with what we do and how we do it.”