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Groundhog Day– Punxsutawney Phil is a Liar

2 Feb 2017, 7:11 am

Spoiler Alert!

Punxsutawney Phil is a liar.

In the early hours of the day, under overcast skies and a passing band of snow showers the furry fibber reportedly saw his shadow.

This means we are looking at 6 more weeks of winter and colder than average temperatures!

Pump the Brakes

Now before you go book that tropical getaway, there are some ‘facts’ that we might want to explore.

These aren’t alternative facts, this is the real deal.
Phil, the groundhog– not your neighbor, has no forecasting skill whatsoever. Don’t believe me? Well, thanks to the smart folks over at NOAA and the National Climate Data Center we can look at his predictions from years past and compare those to what we actually saw.

To sum it all up, since 1887 Phil has seen his shadow 103 times, compared to just 18 times when cloud cover kept him from seeing his silhouette. Oh, and we somehow lost the records for 10 of those years, in case you were doing the math.

So, when looking at historical data, a vast majority of the past 131 years should have seen a delayed onset to spring. But that just wasn’t the case, in fact it was almost the exact opposite.

Why Do We Trust a Rodent?

Good question. With a track record like his, why do we trust the ground-dweller?

Because it’s fun and gives us a distraction in the middle of winter! And that is enough for me.

February 2nd is actually the exact middle of winter. So at the halfway point it just makes sense to have something to look forward to!

On top of that, Phil is no ordinary groundhog. While the average lifespan of a groundhog is just 6 years, lore states that Phil today is the same Phil that started the tradition more than 100 years ago. The groundhog club cares for this special guy and the president is the only person able to translate the forecast.

The tradition, with its Celtic roots, states the following:

If Phil sees his shadow, we will have 6 more weeks of colder temperatures and a longer winter.
If he does not see his shadow, spring will start early and temperatures will be above average.

What Will We Actually See?

Thankfully the Climate Prediction Center puts out a long term forecast, so we can see what we can actually expect in the next month and a half.

Temperatures will remain above normal in the coming weeks and months across most of the U.S.

This means that, once again, Punxsutawney Phil will miss his mark with the extended forecast.
Maybe that’s why he predicts winter more often than not– so he can hide his frowning face from all of us as he hibernates for those additional 6 weeks…

I Still Want to Go

All of the above being said, I still want to take part in this quirky celebration.

It turns out, the town of Punxsutawney, PA is actually quite small and doesn’t have much in the way of accommodations for all of the yearly visitors.In addition to that, Gobbler’s Knob is almost 3 miles from the city center, meaning it’s quite the trek to catch this stump-sleeper give his false forecast. And actually, it’s also not even where the movie Groundhog Day was filmed!

But that’s exactly what makes it so fun! With a lack of accommodations, visitors and residents take to the streets and pubs the night before and celebrate clear through to the morning! Wearing goofy hats and ringing in the forecast with thousands of your closest friends sounds like a perfect mid-winter break.

For WeatherNation — Meteorologist Jeremy LaGoo

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