Dear Paul

The Twin Cities weatherman on the <em>Farmers’ Almanac</em>, the <em>Edmund Fitzgerald</em>, and turkey dinners

What are the Gales of November? As the atmosphere transitions into winter, large north-south contrasts in temperature across North America can whip up extreme storms. One such low-pressure system over the Midwest intensified rapidly on November 10, 1975, with hurricane-force gusts and 25- to 30-foot waves on Lake Superior. The Edmund Fitzgerald ore carrier was caught in the gale, and most likely a giant rogue wave breached the cargo hold or possibly even snapped the ship in half, killing all 29 people aboard.

How do those Farmers’ Almanac folks forecast the weather so far in advance? Has anyone ever checked to see if they’re more or less accurate than up-to-the-minute meteorologists? I have a bootleg copy of the Farmers’ Almanac in my desk drawer. The editors are very secretive about how they come up with their winter forecasts. They may or may not include such weather factors as the El Niño pattern or solar flares. Many years ago, a major university study found that they’re wrong as often as they’re right—it’s a coin flip. But computer models also tend to lose all reliability when predicting anything beyond 22 days, even though they’re getting about 1 percent more accurate each year in predicting things two to five days out.

Does the Douglas family feast feature the same dishes year after year or do you prefer those “updated classics” the foodie magazines push? It’s nice to have the classics, but it’s always good to try something new, according to Laurie, my wife of 25 years. Two years ago, in our attempt to brine the turkey, the bird wound up severely undercooked and soggy, resulting in what we called “sushi turkey.” It’s good to experiment, but not on the main dish. Trust me, I’m a weatherman.

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