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Of moonshine and sunshine

27 Oct 2021 | OP ED Watch

As we noted last week, and most weeks prior, the computer models are terrible at making predictions. And then we cited Weatherbell’s prediction based instead on past weather patterns that a mild North American fall would give way to a cold and very snowy winter. Since we also keep harping on testable predictions as the touchstone of real science, let us now embarrass someone, possibly ourselves, by noting Andy May’s piece on Watts Up With That noting the Old Farmer’s Almanac predictions for the coming winter in the United States. May says “The Old Farmer’s Almanac has been making yearly long-term weather forecasts for 230 years. We pay attention to them because they are normally 80% accurate.” Mind you, it’s less impressive than it sounds because they only predict the direction of the change not the specific magnitude like, say, a weather forecast or climate computer model. But they do forecast direction of change for both temperature and precipitation by 16 regions in the continental US and, May says, “If their forecast is correct, we are in for another cold winter this year.” So what if both the Almanac and Weatherbell are right the models with their “hottest ever” are wrong? Someone will be eating gelid crow as contempt comes up with a chilly sunrise.

Speaking of the sun, if you read down toward the bottom of May’s piece, you discover just how large and unappetizing the portion could be. After discussing the models, and discussing critiques of their results including those by Ross McKitrick and John Christy, May turns to the Almanac methodology. And guess what? “Their primary metric has always been solar activity, as measured by sunspots. The predominant input they use in their forecasting model is the solar cycle and it has been the most important input for 230 years.” Eighty percent accurate, in fact. Oh dear.

Meanwhile, it is dawning on some journalists that a cold winter is coming. For instance a Washington Post story reprinted in Canada that predicted the coldest winter here since 2013-14, colder even than 2018-19. Gosh. So no global warming? Perish the thought. Instead it’s because of a looming La Niña. Just weather, you see.

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