Groundhog Vs. National Weather Service: Who Was Right?

Groundhog Vs. National Weather Service: Who Was Right?

In Gobbler’s Knob, PA, at the crack of dawn today (Feb. 2, 2017), the nation’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow.

So did Woodstock Willie, our local rodent prognosticator in nearby Woodstock, IL.

The result: As the legend has it, there will be six more weeks of winter.

The question: Do we believe it? Here’s a quick “fact check” story, courtesy of the National Weather Service.

Q: Were Groundhogs Unanimous?

A: No.

Across the country, not all groundhog forecasters agreed with Willie and Phil.

Staten Island Chuck, for example, informed a New York audience that East Coast folks would see an early spring. Shubenacadie Sam in Nova Scotia sided with Chuck.

Of course, this whole groundhog data mining leads to yet another question.

Q: How Accurate Was Phil’s 2016 Prediction?

A: Awesome.

According to the National Weather Service story, which you’re reading now, Phil hit the mark last year when he didn’t see his shadow and predicted that spring had sprung. The contiguous United States saw above average temperatures in both February and March 2016.

The Midwest (which counts) and Northeast (which doesn’t, sorry), along with the western half of the Lower 48 states, saw above-average February temperatures. Overall, 21 states were much warmer than average during the month.

Last March, every state in the contiguous United States saw above average temperatures. Parts of the Rocky Mountains, Central and Northern Plains, Midwest, and the East Coast were all much warmer than average during the month. Overall, the month ranked as the fourth warmest March for the Lower 48 in our 122-year period of record. It was also the warmest since 2012.

As Phil surely knows, accurate forecasting is hard work. Take a look at how the groundhog has scored against the U.S. temperature record (and download the NWS infographic), courtesy of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Q: Is the NWS Better Than a Groundhog?

A: Probably … ?

But the NWS might have some ‘splainin’ to do after predicting that this year’s winter (2016-17) in Kane County would be cooler and wetter. Yes, it’s cold right now, but my totally unscientific observation is that it’s been pretty dang warm so far this season, and I don’t recall having to shovel all that much snow.

Q: Does Phil Stack Up Vs. the Actual National Temperature?

A: Not so much.

SOURCE: National Weather Service