Groundhog Day: Should we put stock in Punxsutawney Phil's predictions?
Every February 2nd, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the most famous weather-predicting rodent gives his forecast for the next six weeks. Will Phil see his shadow and predict six more weeks of winter? Or will he say an early spring with no shadow sighted? Lastly, is his forecast one we should trust?
The short answer is: no.
Since the beginning of Groundhog Day celebrations on Gobbler's Knob, Phil has seen his shadow more often than not, signifying six more weeks of winter.
On record, Phil has seen his shadow 103 times and no shadow only 18 times (the results were not recorded on ten occasions). Only 15 percent of the time, Phil predicted an early spring and most of those non-shadow sightings have come in the last few decades.
Looking at the most recent thirty years, Phil has a failing grade in accuracy. Comparing his predictions to the following six weeks of national temperatures, Phil was correct 45 percent of the time.
In 2017, Punxsutawney Phil said six more weeks of winter, but most of the country got an early spring. In Grand Rapids, February 2017 ran much warmer than average, and the month is in the books as the warmest on record.
Climate Central looked at the average temperature trend for the six weeks following Groundhog Day in dozens of locations. Most locations showed that regardless of Phil's prediction, these locations are warming, including Grand Rapids.
An earlier arrival of spring may sound delightful, but could mean terrible repercussions for agriculture. One example of the backlash of an early spring was the year of 2012. The month of March was so warm, fruit trees blossomed early. A few weeks later, sub-freezing temperatures killed most of the fruit crop for the season.
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