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Possible Early Spring Says the ole Groundhog

by | Feb 2, 2016 | NWS Alerts, Weather Blog

As the legend goes, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow on Feb. 2, six more weeks of winter weather lay ahead; no shadow indicates an early spring. Phil, a groundhog, has been forecasting the weather on Groundhog Day for 130 years today is the 130th anniversary, but just how good is he at his job?

Not very, it turns out.

Punxsutawney Phil was first tasked with predicting the upcoming spring weather in 1887, and the process hasn’t changed much since. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, of Punxsutawney, Penn., takes care of Phil year-round, and on each Feb. 2, members of the club’s Inner Circle rouse Phil at sunrise to see if he casts a shadow. (Contrary to popular belief, Phil doesn’t actually have to see his shadow he just has to cast one to make his wintery prophecy .)

According to the Groundhog Club’s records, the various incarnations of Punxsutawney Phil have predicted 99 forecasts of more winter and 15 early springs. (There are nine years without any records, and even the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce, which keeps track of these things, doesn’t know what happened to Phil during those years.) Data from the Stormfax Almanac’s data shows that Phil’s six-week prognostications have been correct 39 percent of the time.

And how does that stand up against human forecasters?  If Punxsutawney Phil is right 39 percent of the time, that’s much, much worse than a climatological prediction. Even if you flip a coin, you’ll still be right close to half of the time that’s a 50 percent accuracy rate. So you’ll be better off flipping a coin than going by the groundhog’s predictions.

To rule out the possibility that we just have a thing against groundhogs, we checked with NOAA and found out Punxsutawney Wont be getting a job with The National Weather Service anytime soon.

YearShadowFebruary Temperature DepartureMarch Temperature Departure
2015YesSlightly BelowAbove
2014YesBelowSlightly Below
2013NoSlightly AboveSlightly Below
2012YesAboveAbove
2011NoSlightly BelowAbove
2010YesBelowAbove
2009YesAboveAbove
2008YesSlightly AboveSlightly Above
2007NoBelowAbove
2006YesAboveAbove
2005YesAboveSlightly Above
2004YesSlightly BelowAbove
2003YesBelowAbove
2002YesAboveBelow
2001YesSlightly AboveSlightly Below
2000YesAboveAbove
1999NoAboveAbove
1998YesAboveSlightly Below
1997NoAboveAbove
1996YesAboveBelow
1995NoAboveAbove
1994YesBelowAbove
1993YesBelowSlightly Above
1992YesAboveAbove
1991YesAboveAbove
1990NoAboveAbove
1989YesBelowAbove
1988NoSlightly BelowSlightly Above

So there you go. The statistics suggest that you probably shouldn’t pack up your snow gear based on Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast. Then again, what do you expect? Phil is a groundhog, after all.

But what did Phil See this year you Ask?  Well Phil Says no shadow was seen so early spring it is.   39% Chance he is correct.

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