September 18, 2008 / 3:32 PM / 10 years ago

Old Farmer's Almanac predicts global cooling

CHICAGO, Sept 18 (Reuters) - The world is set for a “big chill,” possibly a mini-ice age, according to the venerable and whimsical Old Farmer’s Almanac, first published in 1792 and the United States’ oldest continuously published periodical.

The 2009 edition, published earlier this month, predicts that the earth already has entered a sustained period of global cooling.

True to form, the almanac also includes tips on gardening and how to stay warm all winter with just one log.

“The next 20 years, it’s going to be colder,” said Sarah Perreault, assistant editor of the Old Farmer’s Almanac. “We do recognize that (global cooling) could be offset by greenhouse gasses and other human effects on the earth, but we’re trending toward the cool period now.”

The almanac is predicting a period of global cooling partly due to the lack of sunspots, a situation which some scientists believe causes cooling on the sun and, subsequently, the earth.

Perreault said the staff still uses the weather prediction method devised by almanac founder Robert B. Thomas, using a combination of solar sciences, meteorology and climatology.

“Obviously we have more technology now,” she said. “We have the benefit of having more information than he had, but it’s basically the same.”

She said the method is not exact. Since the almanac is published so far in advance, it cannot take into account the most up-to-date information on Pacific Ocean oscillations El Nino or La Nina, for instance.

Still, the almanac has an 80 percent success rate for its weather predictions, Perreault said.

In its early years, the almanac was one of the chief sources for weather forecasts for farmers and other businessmen. While it may not hold that distinction anymore, it is still a “great piece of Americana,” said Mike Palmerino, meteorologist with DTN Meteorlogix.

Palmerino said the almanac sparked an early interest in the weather in him.

“I find their weather forecasts a curiosity. It’s more of something that’s just a fun read,” he said.

The format for the Dublin, New Hampshire-based almanac has been roughly the same throughout its history, with its yellow cover and hole punched in the upper-left corner for hanging in barns and outhouses.

It is not to be confused with the slightly less august Farmer’s Almanac, first published in 1818.

In addition to weather predictions for each day of the year, the Old Farmer’s Almanac also includes gardening tips about such things as planting milkweed to attract Monarch butterflies.

And how does the almanac recommend keeping warm throughout the winter with one piece of wood?

Toss the log out of an upstairs window, run downstairs and outside to retrieve it, run back upstairs, then fling it out of the window again.

“Pretty soon you’re going to be very hot and you don’t need to turn the heat on,” Perreault said. (Reporting by Michael Hirtzer; editing by Jim Marshall)

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