A degree of uncertainty: Despite gains, some aspects of weather prediction remain an imperfect science

"This particular El Nino has not had much of an impact," Kousky said. "It's been all over the ballpark with a cool fall and warm November and December."

The effects of El Nino have been studied for more than 100 years, said Kousky. Another phenomenon known as Southern Oscillation began to take hold more recently, and it was at that point observers started realizing the two events are one in the same.

"The two were not put together as the same weather phenomenon until the late 1960s," said Kousky.

It was in the early '80s that the term El Nino became widely accepted. The El Nino effect is believed to be responsible for heavy rainstorms in California from 1982 to 1983 that caused major coastal erosion. It also resulted in a warm, wet spring on the East Coast and droughts in several other areas of the world.

"El Ninos are seen every four or five years, and every second or third of these could be a large El Nino," said Kousky.

El Nino or not, weather predictions in the Old Farmer's Almanac are made two years in advance based on principles developed hundreds of years ago.

"Our predictions are based on mathematical formulas from the 1800s, including sunspots, planet positions and the effects of the moon on the earth," said Geiger.

"I think we do a pretty good job," he added. "Some years are more predictable than other years."

According to information from the Ocean Research Institute, the first weather forecasters were most likely fisherman, whose livelihoods depended on knowing what the sky had in store for them. In 1860, the Times newspaper of London published the first daily weather forecasts, which were based on eyewitness observations.

In 1922, British scientist L.F. Richardson had a dream of forecasting weather based on principles of hydrodynamic equations. The only problem was that Richardson lived in a time before high-powered computers, and complicated numerical weather predictions were not yet possible. His dream became a reality in 1955 when a joint project of the Air Force, Navy and weather bureau created the very first weather predictions based on numerical equations.

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