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Fear the Polar Coaster? Understanding the Farmer's Almanac prediction

Farmer's Almanac claims 80-percent accuracy, but uses a secret formula to make its annual predictions.

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — Farmer's Almanac is predicting a "frigid and snowy" winter for Minnesota, with a "polar coaster" of up-and-down temperatures.

We brought the prediction to fair-goers at the Minnesota State Fair, where usually in late August, the only things frozen are snack-sized.

"At first I thought, it can't be worse than last year," said Debbie Kronback from Elysian. "But I'm like, it is what it is, we live in Minnesota."

"Sounds awful to me," said Tricia Suchy of Prescott, Wisconsin. "Don't love winter, so I am hoping that they're wrong."

One farmer we met in the State Fair Cattle Barn admits, he's paying attention to the prediction.

"My take is they are right more than they're wrong," said Greg Nelson, a cattle and alfalfa farmer from Dassel. "I can believe it."

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Farmer's Almanac claims an 80-percent accuracy rate, basing its predictions on a top-secret "mathematical and astronomical" formula first developed in 1818; while it also "firmly (denies) using any type of computer satellite tracking equipment."

However, our WeatherMinds scientists say to take the prediction with caution.

"Long-term weather is really a very fluid situation, so it's not really one where you give a forecast in August and nothing changes five months out," said KARE 11 meteorologist Laura Betker.

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Farmer's Almanac never gives specifics, but Betker studied their generalized predictions for the past five winters in Minnesota, and discovered they were all a little off.

2018-19 Farmer's Almanac prediction: Teeth-chattering cold, plentiful snow

Reality: Mild start, then cold and snowy

2017-18 Farmer's Almanac prediction: Cold, moderate snowfall, not as harsh as usual 

Reality: Brutal cold with rounds of heavy snow (remember the Super Bowl?)

2016-17 Farmer's Almanac prediction: Freezing cold & average snowfall 

Reality: Warm temps, ice and snow storms, above average December precipitation

2015-16 Farmer's Almanac prediction: Very Snowy & Typical winter cold 

Reality: Snowy December, then average snow through February, with warmer temps

2014-15 Farmer's Almanac prediction: Frigid & Flaky

Reality: Little snow, mild until February

The 2019-2020 winter reality could also vary from the Farmer's Almanac prediction; right now, the Climate Prediction Center expects average temps for Minnesota.

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"Are we going to have up and down temperatures this winter? Yes, we can expect that," Betker said. "Are we going to have cold days, snowy periods? Absolutely, that's winter in Minnesota every year."