PARKERSBURG - Old-time forecasters are predicting a cold and snowy winter, but modern forecasters say they're not sure.
Sunday marks the beginning of autumn and with the coming of fall comes preparations for winter.
According to the Associated Press, the 2014 Farmers Almanac published in August predicts a bitterly cold winter for 2013-14. The almanac also is predicting a severe winter storm just in time for the Super Bowl in February.
The forecasts are based mainly on lunar cycles and other cosmic factors, such as moon phases and sunspots, but the publishers claim 80 percent accuracy in the almanac's predictions.
The Old Farmers Almanac, a separate publication with its own secret way of forecasting the weather, also is predicting a harsh winter filled with extremely chilly temperatures and lots of snow.
Claude Marra, an extension agent with the West Virginia University Extension Service in Pleasants County, said residents always are trying to predict fall and winter weather, but the area has had equal amounts of harsh and mild winters in the past.
"People always say it's so much colder this year than it was the year before," he said. "It's the natural cycle of things. We've had very cold, snowy winters in the past, and some that weren't."
Marra said the Pleasants extension office does not track seasonal weather, but if this year's wooly worms and their stripes are any indication, it should be a cold winter. Marra said many people still rely on such indicators to predict the weather.
"I doubt they are any more accurate than the weather service, though," he said.
Andrew Beavers, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, said such long range predictions are beyond the scope of local weather forecasters.
"Here at our offices we only predict about a week to 10-days out," he said.
For longer-range forecasts, Beaver said the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center looks at data for the entire United States. The center does three-month predictions and also forecasts by season, looking at possible variations in average temperatures and precipitation amounts. Those forecasts however look more at overall trends in seasonal weather rather than making actual predictions.
Though the Climate Prediction Center is forecasting forecasting above normal temperatures for much of the west coast and midwest states and below normal precipitation for areas of the west and some southern states for the winter season, the rest of the U.S. is anybody's guess. West Virginia is marked as having an equal chance of being at, above or below normal temperatures and levels of precipitation for those months.
J.J. Barrett, agriculture agent with the Wood County office of the WVU Extension Service, said though the rainy summer had been tough on some farm crops, most did very well this year, which bodes well for the coming winter. Staples such as corn and hay came in as a "bumper crop" which will help livestock farmers this winter, even if it is a harsher season.
"I don't think this year is going to be that much different than any other year," he said. "I think most of the livestock farmers are going to be in good shape. I think we're all in good shape."
Barrett said the ways of predicting weather are many and varied, but often you can't really tell how severe the weather will be until you are in the middle of the season.
"It's hard to tell with weather forecasting, and I'd tend to rely more on the science of it to predict things," he said.
Barrett also said a "harsh" winter by some standards might be a good winter for others.
"For alot of farmers, a lot of snow helps insulate those crops in the ground," he said. "A winter where the temperatures keep varying and it keeps freezing and thawing, making the ground muddy, might be worse than one where the ground just freezes solid."