– Punxsutawney Phil says six more weeks of winter
– The rodent is less accurate than a coin flip
– Warmer & drier than normal conditions expected to continue in Florida
Groundhog Day is a tradition that spans 130 years. Every year since 1887, on the morning of February 2nd, thousands gather in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to see if Phil will see his shadow. Folklore has long suggested that the next six weeks would be foretold by this furry rodent’s annual moment of fame. Sounds scientific, doesn’t it?
If one were to look at Phil’s 2016 prediction, you would think the he was onto something. It was correct. He predicted early spring and that is what America got. Based on his overall record, however, one could cry foul. In fact, one disgruntled Ohio lawyer did just that in 2013. He filed the first ever lawsuit against the famous groundhog, and sought the death penalty. A national newspaper carried the story with the headline: ‘Lawyer Sues Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, Seeks Death Penalty for Being Dirty Liar’.
Harsh, right? It’s hard to shake a groundhog who’s palled around with famous figures such as former President Reagan, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Murray. Phil was later pardoned and all was well.
According to NOAA, Phil has predicted an early spring 18 times and “six more weeks of winter” 102 times. 10 years of predictions were mysteriously not recorded. Storm Fax has crunched the numbers and found Phil to be right only 39 percent of the time . Needless to say, you’d be better off flipping a coin.
Perhaps we could use science and meteorology to better understand what might happen over the next six weeks.
The Winter So Far
Since the beginning of the winter season in Florida temperatures have been warmer than usual. Temperatures averaged 6.6 degrees above normal for the entire month of December and that was just the beginning. The month of January was no different, averaging 6.3 degrees above normal.
Numbers like these are already spring-like, and we didn’t need a groundhog to know they were coming. The clues came from an ocean thousands of miles away last November when a La Nina was announced. In meteorology ocean temperatures are our groundhog and a La Nina spells out a warmer winter in Florida and vice versa for an El Nino.
The Next Three Months
The predictions for a warm winter in The Southeast have already come to fruition, and the warmth is likely to last. The Climate Prediction Center’s three-month outlook is for above normal temperatures in Florida and the entire East Coast, including Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
While Groundhog Day is a beloved tradition for most Americans, it’s always best to stick to the science, regardless what the furry little creature says.
So let’s cut Phil a break. He is just a groundhog after all.
Spring officially begins March 20th.