There's finally a chill in the air.The skies are cloudy, there's a slight chance of rain, and temperatures should drop to the mid-40s by Saturday night.Although it's our first real taste of fall, some weather watchers are already looking ahead to winter, wondering what it will bring.And whose prediction do you trust in this age of the Weather Channel and 24/7 updates on Twitter and the Internet?The National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center winter outlook shows above-normal precipitation for almost the entire state and near-normal temperatures for the northern half.Accuweather says there may be some drought relief for West Texas.And the Farmer's Almanac, which started publishing in 1818, predicts a mild, wet winter for the western two-thirds of Texas, while parts of East Texas will see "wild temperature swings and periods of storminess" that includes the possibility of some ice and snow.Wait. The Farmer's Almanac?Some people say the almanac, which makes its predictions two years in advance, is still a valuable tool for farmers and ranchers. Stephen Mahalitc is one of them."I enjoy having a hard copy to look at and look at the predictions," Mahalitc said. "Are they correct? Sometimes they are and sometimes they miss a little bit."Mahalitc said the long-term forecasts can provide farmers with hope as they endure droughts, like the one last year, that seem as if they will never end."If we're in some extreme situations, I like to know if there is a positive side, a positive outlook," said Mahalitc, who lives in Eagle Lake, west of Houston and visited the State Fair of Texas this week.As far as Mahalitc is concerned, the almanac nailed it with last year's predictions.While most weather watchers suggested the statewide drought would continue throughout the fall and winter, the almanac's forecaster, who goes by the pseudonym Caleb Weatherbee, correctly predicted a wet winter for parts of Texas.Worshipped by many who make their living outdoors, the almanac, which also features gardening advice and other unique, homespun content, is for others nothing more than Facebook fodder.Meteorologists and climatologists, said almanac managing editor Sandi Duncan, "either love us or they hate us. There is no middle ground."Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said his problem with the almanac's long-range forecasts is that they include a little bit of everything."I completely agree you might see some winter weather this winter," Nielsen-Gammon said with a laugh. "Their predictions tend to be vague enough that they can twist to fit the facts fairly easily."While touting last year's wet-weather prediction for Texas, Duncan said the almanac was "slightly off" on its winter prediction for most of the country in what was the fourth-warmest winter on record.Pennsylvania State Climatologist Paul Knight said he studied the accuracy of the almanac's predictions over a seven -to eight-year period and found that it did far better with temperature outlooks than with precipitation.Knight used to grade the almanac on its predictions on his TV show, Weather World, but gave it up because the almanac's readers complained."After a while, our viewers [many of whom are farmers] felt that we were picking on the Farmer's Almanac. ... So we stopped doing it to lessen the grief," Knight said in an e-mail.Duncan won't reveal the secrets of their forecasting methodology but said the forecaster bases long-range predictions on a secret formula that includes mathematical, historical and astronomical data.For this weekend, the almanac predicts that in the south-central U.S. region, which includes Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico, there will be "stormy weather with some wet snow flurries over higher terrains."For the most part, the forecast appears to be spot-on. In Colorado Springs, for example, meteorologists are predicting temperatures in the mid-20s for Saturday night, with a 30 percent chance of snow.Any arguments over the merits of the almanac are lost on the young.While regular readers thumb through the pages of the almanac for the phases of the moon and long-range forecasts, Page Bishop, a 4-H youth development agent in Ellis County, said most high school students who show animals -- and could be the next generation of farmers and ranchers -- have never heard of it."No sir, they don't pay any attention to it," Bishop said. "They're too busy playing with their iPhones and iPads to know what it is."Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698Twitter: @fwhanna
Saturday: High temperature of 55 in the afternoon, with a 30 percent chance of rain, dropping to 47 degrees overnight.
Sunday: Partly sunny with a high of 60 and low of 51.
Source: National Weather Service Fort Worth