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Trying to plan for weather

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At the 2022 Commodity Classic, a well-respected meteorologist presented an almost hour-long session on what farmers across the country might expect, weather-wise, for the rest of the year. This was in early March, and the trained scientist was working off years of previous data, general trends from the more recent past and, essentially, educated guesses.

For example, much of New York in 2021 was far wetter than usual, and based on all the data points this man had, he predicted the same would likely be true for 2022 – but he often pointed out there was no guarantee. Based on the arid if not full-blown drought conditions the Empire State saw in 2022, it’s a good thing he didn’t put any money down on those predictions.

The La Niña weather pattern that’s been camped off the West Coast for the better part of two years now continues to wreak havoc on much the U.S.’s usual climate patterns, and it’s probably going to affect us in 2023 as well. As a farmer, gardener or homesteader, what can you do to plan?

Honestly, not much.

Sorry! But it’s true. The Earth is not known for its constancy. It’s a wild ride for all of us.

But as humans, we also try – really hard sometimes – to figure it out anyway. The good ol’ Farmers Almanac makes predictions each year. They boast that they’ve been predicting weather since 1792 – during George Washington’s presidency – and are traditionally 80% accurate. If you want to see what they have to say about this winter, click here.

One thing you can do to figure out what you can do should something unusual happen, climatically speaking, is change the way you interpret weather forecasts.

Forbes Magazine provided a great article outlining how to do this, and the gist of it is understand there are limits of forecast accuracy (about 10 – 14 days); pay attention to evolving forecasts, not just the one you heard at the beginning of the week; create a plan for your household and your farm should severe weather arise; and avoid “normalcy bias.” What once was likely no longer will be. It’s called climate change for a reason.

That said – my completely unofficial, in no way scientifically based prediction for this spring and summer for the Northeast includes late snows (into late April), but then a very warm May and June with average precipitation. July will be a mixed bag, and August will be a little droughty again. If I’m right, I’ll provide my Venmo so you can tip me.

by Courtney Llewellyn, editor-in-chief

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