The late Lester Moyer, who for many years enjoyed the reputation of being Berks County’s human weather vane, made his annual forecast by the timing of the phases of the moon while infusing a generous dose of intuition.

“When I sit down to write my almanac, I get this feeling in my bones,” he confided to a Reading Eagle reporter about 10 years ago.

The longtime publisher of Moyer’s Almanac, who died at age 73 in 2017, was one of a time-honored breed of weather prognosticators who shared their meteorological insights in almanacs.

Long before Doppler radar, satellites and computer models, publishers of almanacs looked to the sun, moon and stars for insight into what’s ahead weatherwise in the coming year.

Though up-to-the-minute weather reports are only a touch away on cellphones and other devices, the allure of almanacs persists in some cases more than two centuries after their forecasting methods were devised.

Linda Weidman, publisher and chief prognosticator at the 196-year-old Baer’s Almanac and Gardener’s Guide in Lancaster, says the continuing popularity of almanacs is rooted in a hankering for the good old days.

There was a time, she acknowledges, when people planned events based on weather predictions in the almanac. Country folk consulted the almanac for things like when to plant a crop, when to hold a family reunion or maybe even when to get married.

While acknowledging those days are gone, Weidman says there are people who still love to read the almanac.

“A lot of the almanac’s appeal has to do with agricultural tradition,” she says. “People are used to it, they get nostalgic and like to read the almanac.”

Whither the weather

Nostalgia aside, as summer wanes people’s attention turns to what’s ahead for winter.

Weidman’s tight-lipped about her method but isn’t shy about sharing insights on “Old Man Winter’s” behavior emanating from her meteorological crystal ball.

Saturn is the reigning planet, says Weidman, who foresees a cold, rainy and rather "unpleasant" year weatherwise.

“Winter will be lackluster with regard to snow,” says Weidman, predicting a repeat of last winter’s weather pattern. “There will be more rain than snow.”

Early February will bring significant snowfall along the Mid-Atlantic coast, she predicts. Weidman reserves the term “blizzard” for mid-February, when there’s the potential for a 1 to 2-foot accumulation.

The major almanacs detail their forecasts by region, but some general observations can be made.

Farmers' Almanac

The Farmers’ Almanac, published in Maine since 1818, foresees 2021 as the “Winter of the Great Divide”: snowy in the north, drought in the west and "everything crazy in between.”

Relying on its own “time-tested” formula with a little help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Farmers’ says a La Nina is brewing and will dictate winter weather patterns.

A La Nina is a cooling of the waters of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. An El Nino is a warming of those waters. The El Ninos have been much more pronounced this century and have helped to dictate the warmer weather of this era.

The scientific forecasters show a trend to the La Nina as well. However, the more the cooling, the greater the effects. The depths of an El Nino or La Nina are tricky forecasts.      

Agreeing with Baer’s, Farmers' predicts a blizzard will blanket the Eastern Seaboard with 1 to 2 feet of snow in mid-February.

Farmers' notes that trick-or-treaters can conduct their annual haunting by the light of a rare Hunter’s Blue Moon on Oct. 31, the first in all time zones since 1944.

Whenever two full moons appear in the same month, as is the case this year, the second is called a blue moon. Astronomers say the next full moon on Halloween will not occur until 2039.

Other voices

The Old Farmer’s Almanac, whose secret forecasting formula was devised when George Washington was president, says winter will be colder in the north and warmer in the south with above normal precipitation and snowfall.

Moyer’s Almanac is still published by Lester Moyer’s wife, Elaine, and daughter Tracy Moyer Weidner of Ruscombmanor Township.

January will be colder than normal and sizable snow storms can be expected in February and March, with possible snow around Easter, which falls on April 4, Moyer’s predicts.

Not your grandma's almanac

Astronomical tables that chart the phases of the moon, the stars and the planets are staples in all almanacs. So are calendars listing important dates, holidays, religious observances and when the next eclipse will occur.

Increasingly, though, almanacs are broadening their appeal.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac may be in its 229th year, but its 2021 edition adopts a timely theme built around “helping people live better, stay healthy and do more with less.”

It offers advice on how readers can grow their own food, fight colds and flu and fulfill a dream of trading city life for a goat farm in Vermont.

On a more urgent note, Old Farmer’s warns sea levels have risen 6.5 inches since 1880. Half of the increase has occurred since 1950. By year 2100, it warns, 1 in 6 homes in Boston could be regularly flooded.

The Farmers’ Almanac offers advice on staying healthy through the use of healing herbs and natural immunity boosters.

It also suggests five easy ways to choose eco-friendly alternatives to everyday products, suggesting items such as beeswax food wrapping and bamboo toilet paper. And it elaborates on ways to connect to nature in the water, dirt and sky.

Baer’s, one of the few that accepts no advertising, prides itself on historical articles.

The 2021 edition has mini-profiles of two women whose political contributions are relatively unknown: Hattie Caraway of Arkansas, who in 1932 was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate, and U.S. Rep. Alice Robertson of Oklahoma, the first woman to defeat an incumbent congressman.

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