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Go Ahead Groundhog, Make My Forecast!

2 Feb 2013, 2:40 pm

It is February 2nd today , and much like every 2nd day of the 2nd month of the year, we turn our attention to a furry little fellow name Phil that lives in Pennsylvania and ask him if Winter will wrap up early or will be seeing cold and snowy conditions last for 6 more weeks.  This image, from Jucool Images, puts a little humor into this long standing tradition of why do we ask him whats going on when we have meteorologists and computers and satellites… hmmm.

Well the tradition goes back some few hundred years in America, back in the 1800s, but the origins in Europe go back even further.  If the groundhog sees his shadow, he/she will run back into its burrow and predict that six more week of winter are on the way.  If the groundhog comes out and it is cloudy out, he/she won’t see a shadow and say that Spring will arrive early.  There were often disputes among two separate calendar systems that were merged together.  It was a toss up to when Spring really began; was it around the Vernal Equinox or did it occur when daylight started to get longer and longer.  The groundhog was often viewed as the decider in which time Spring happened to arrive.

Now while this tradition is most famously celebrated in the town of Punxsutawney in PA, there are other celebrations with other named groundhogs, that occur around the country.  But since Phil is the most well known, his forecast stands out above all others so we decided to stick with him.

This morning, Punxsutawney Phil, was picked up out of home in Gobbler’s Knob, and ended up not seeing his shadow, which means that he predicts Spring will arrive early!

Typically Phil ends up seeing his shadow and we end up having to deal with six more weeks of brutal cold and blowing snow.  But just because Phil says one thing, doesn’t mean it always happens.  After all, much like a meteorologist, he works with Mother Nature, and she can be a tricky lady.

Phil’s track record has mainly trended towards him seeing his shadow and thereby saying that winter will stay for another 6 weeks.  A few times he has said that he could not see his shadow and that Spring will arrive early, and this time will be one of those times.

In the recent past four years, Phil has seen his shadow 3 out of 4 times and has said winter will linger.  Well if you remember last year for example, most would say it where was winter to begin with.  It was a warm Feb. and March and record high temps were broken all over March.  Barely any snow fell down across the lower 48 states, which helped make the massive drought conditions that occurred this past Summer in the midwest and mountains out west.  Back in 2011, Phil didn’t see his shadow, saying winter will wrap up early and Spring will arrive.  Temps were running on the cool side in Feb. and a little above normal in March.  For the remainder of that winter, snow was still an issue.

Now after Phil has said Spring is coming here sooner rather than later, lets take a look at what the Climate Prediction Center says about how the next three months will pan out.

The southern portion of the nation will see milder and drier conditions (which is not too good for the drought scenario), while up in the northeast, temps look to trend warmer, but precip chances will be average.  Across the northwest, and into Alaska, temps are looking to be on the cooler side of things, while likely to receive average amounts of precipitation for the next 3 months.  In the upper Midwest, there will be an increase in precipitation, but an average time of temperature scenario setting up through the end of Winter and into Spring.  So not one place looks to be getting a big onslaught of winter, while portions of the nation look to trend drier and milder, so perhaps, Phil will get this one right and make his prediction hold true of Spring arriving early.

As always, I end the blog on the forecast of the day ahead.

Forecast conditions look favorable across the south, and that is a great thing for the lower Mississippi River Valley, where the SuperBowl is going to be taking place, down in New Orleans, LA.  Temps across the north will still be cold and a few more Alberta Clippers will swing by.  The west coast looks lovely, while the northeast sees clouds and snow showers.

Have a great weekend!

Addison Green (twitter: @agreenWNTV)

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