Last Friday was February 2nd, which means it was the annual Groundhog’s Day celebration. On this day we all turn to one of the most famous rodents, Punxsutawney Phil, to deliver us to news of what weather is to come. The science of this tradition is pretty sound, if Phil wakes up on February 2nd and sees his shadow, we are all doomed to six more weeks of winter. And if he does not? Well, then we all can expect warmer weather with an early spring. So, what weather can we expect for this year?
Phil woke up this year not seeing his shadow, so get ready to say hello to spring sooner than expected.
It turns out that this age-old tradition does actually have an age. Punxsutawney Phil has been predicting our early year weather for 137 years. Phil, whose first part of his name comes from the city in which he dwells, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, has been a part of the American tradition for several generations, going through several generations of groundhogs even as different ones have taken on the name since 1887.
Now, there is real science behind how our seasons are determined, most notably the equinoxes. The spring equinox sets the end of winter and beginning of spring as March 19th, at 11 p.m. However, this only serves as the actual distinguisher between the seasons and does not necessarily mean much in terms of weather. We have learned over the years that there are numerous factors that contribute to weather, something we especially are noticing with climate change. Unfortunately, Phil’s predictions do not actually hold up in the court of weather as his predictions have not been the reality more than half the time.
Since 2013, Phil has accurately predicted the seasonal weather 40% of the time.
Meteorologists have announced their own predictions for the weather for the upcoming months. While the National Weather Service has stated that they believe the weather will continue on a trend of warmer weather for most of the country, they do not feel that this is indicative of an early spring. Instead, they are calling it a “winter that largely has not lived up to the name.”
They made reference to warm winters in the years past. About half of the country had the warmest December ever. Warmer winters is seemingly our future as we crawl closer towards the realities of climate change. So, whether Phil is right, or we are just getting incrementally warmer each winter, prepare to heat up in the next few weeks.