Ignore the Groundhog – Why 6 More Weeks of Winter is a Sure Thing
I'm going to make this easy: residents of the Northland will, in fact, get to enjoy 6 more weeks of winter. Frankly, I'll be relieved if it's ONLY 6 more weeks, and not 16 weeks...
You know the drill: "Every February 2, a crowd of thousands gathers at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to await a special forecast from a groundhog named Phil. If the 20-pound groundhog emerges and sees his shadow, the United States can expect six more weeks of winter weather, according to legend. But, if Phil doesn’t see his shadow, we can expect warmer temperatures and the arrival of an early spring" according to NOAA.
But here's the thing: groundhogs are big sleepy rodents and they can't predict the weather. The whole Punxsutawney Phil thing is a chance for this little town outside Pittsburgh, PA to get some airtime and publicity every year. It's a branding play!
The first time Punxsutawney city elders got together and cajoled and wrestled with a potentially rabid groundhog was back in 1887. Since then "Phil" (and his many ancestors - apparently Phil got around) predicted "6 more weeks of winter" 105 times. He failed to see his shadow on 20 separate years, meaning an early spring. Then again, I'm pretty sure Phil doesn't even realize he has a shadow.
This entire macabre stunt is one big distraction, and according to NOAA Phil is not to be trusted: "Even though he’s been forecasting since 1887, Phil’s track record for the entire country isn’t perfect. To determine just how accurate he is, we’ve compared U.S. national temperatures with Phil’s forecasts. On average, Phil has gotten it right 40% of the time over the past 10 years." Wait, 40%?? I have better luck with my NFL Fantasy Football picks! (not really....)
Yes, our winter will spill into April, in all probability, no thanks to a La Nina cooling pattern in the Pacific, which - after 3 years - shows signs of weakening. It's helped to keep us colder than average, but not by much. There's a significant possibility we may be dealing with an El Nino warming phase in the Pacific, which would increase the odds of milder weather next winter. We shall see.
The forecast calls for free cold fronts for everyone (!) but we get a break from polar air with 20s and 30s from this weekend into at least mid-February. Considering we could be -25F with a windchill of -50F I consider that a win! Happy Groundhog Day to all who celebrate!
And why isn't this a national holiday yet?