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Will this St. Louis winter be mild? We asked the man behind the ‘Old Farmer’s Almanac’

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Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
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Tim Clark, contributing editor, "Old Farmer's Almanac."

Founded in 1792, the Old Farmer’s Almanac (repository of quirky information that it is) turns 225 this year. On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, we talked about the latest edition of the tome and learned about what to expect in the coming year.

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Naturally, we asked the question on one Curious Louis listener’s mind: “Will our winters continue to be mild in the Midwest?” Tim Clark, a contributing editor to the publication, had this to say:

“In general terms, for this part of the country, it will be warmer and drier in the winter and spring. Then, it will be cooler and wetter in the summer and autumn. … A little more snow than normal though. The precipitation can be down but the snow can be up because it is 10 inches of snow to every inch of rain.”

Hmm, not exactly the resounding “Yes!” we were hoping for. 

Here are some other interesting facts we learned about the almanac:

1. Robert B. Thomas started the publication in 1792. He was a Massachusetts schoolteacher and was fed up with the “superstition” of almanacs of the day. He wanted to rely on more mathematical calculations.

2. Yankee Publishing, of New Hampshire, bought the periodical in 1939 after Little Brown decided that “weather forecasting was a foolish, old-fashioned idea and they would get rid of it,” said Clark.

3. “Old” wasn’t added to the name “Old Farmer’s Almanac” until 1842.

4. In 1816, the almanac predicted that there would be snow and rain and ice in the middle of the summer. People did not believe it, but that year, Mount Tambora exploded and brought world temperatures down, sprinkling New England with snow and ice. “It established the Old Farmer’s Almanac as this almost supernatural seer of weather,” said Clark.

5. The almanac isn’t really about weather (this year’s edition is 272 pages and only 20 are devoted to weather). The word comes from the Arabic root which means “calendar of the heavens.”

“The first responsibility of any almanac worthy of the name is to tell you what is happening in the sky,” Clark said. “And so, Stonehenge is an almanac. It is a device that will tell you exactly when the winter season ends and spring begins. I think it is also to reassure you that, no, it is not just going to keep getting darker and colder. So I have taken to calling the ‘Old Farmer’s Almanac’ a portable Stone Henge.”

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.

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