Possible Early Spring Says the ole Groundhog

by Feb 2, 2016NWS 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.

Year Shadow February Temperature Departure March Temperature Departure
2015 Yes Slightly Below Above
2014 Yes Below Slightly Below
2013 No Slightly Above Slightly Below
2012 Yes Above Above
2011 No Slightly Below Above
2010 Yes Below Above
2009 Yes Above Above
2008 Yes Slightly Above Slightly Above
2007 No Below Above
2006 Yes Above Above
2005 Yes Above Slightly Above
2004 Yes Slightly Below Above
2003 Yes Below Above
2002 Yes Above Below
2001 Yes Slightly Above Slightly Below
2000 Yes Above Above
1999 No Above Above
1998 Yes Above Slightly Below
1997 No Above Above
1996 Yes Above Below
1995 No Above Above
1994 Yes Below Above
1993 Yes Below Slightly Above
1992 Yes Above Above
1991 Yes Above Above
1990 No Above Above
1989 Yes Below Above
1988 No Slightly Below Slightly 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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