Groundhog Day 2014: Punxsutawney Phil sees shadow, 6 more weeks of winter
The appearance of Phil’s shadow means winter will extend well into March according to folklore. Had Phil not seen his shadow, it would have meant spring is around the corner.
Phil’s prediction may depress residents in the eastern U.S., weary from repeated outbreaks of arctic air.
December and January temperature differences from normal across the U.S. Green, blue, and purple shades are cooler than normal. Yellow, orange, and red shades are warmer than normal. (High Plains Regional Climate Center)
Since the Groundhog’s first prediction in 1887 (through 2013), Phil has seen his shadow 100 times and not seen it on just 17 occasions. There are nine missing years in the record
, but Phil has issued a forecast without exception.
No one questions Phil’s dedication to prognostication, but his accuracy is an unending source of controversy.
Phil’s official Web site
says he has “of course” issued a correct forecast 100 percent of the time. But NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center says
Phil’s forecasts have shown “no predictive skill” in recent years. AccuWeather finds
the rodent has an 80 percent accuracy rate.
AccuWeather.com spring forecast graphic (AccuWeather.com)
NOAA says Groundhog Day originated as an ancient celebration of the mid-point between the winter solstice and spring equinox.
“Superstition has it that fair weather [at this midpoint] was seen as forbearance of a stormy and cold second half to winter,” NOAA writes
in its summary of Groundhog Day background and folklore.
Groundhog Day-like celebrations are held in several other regions of North America where other furry rodents make their predictions, including:
In Washington, D.C., Potomac Phil – a stuffed Groundhog – makes his forecast
in Dupont Circle at 8 a.m.
Jason Samenow is the Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist and serves as the Washington Post's Weather Editor. He earned BA and MS degrees in atmospheric science from the University of Virginia and University of Wisconsin-Madison.