Happy Groundhog Day

- It’s the second day of the second month and time for some furry little varmint to come out of his or her hole and play meteorologist for a day. Similar to my career, this is a tradition that started back in 1887. Unlike weather forecasting, it’s a simple concept. The groundhog emerges from its burrow and if it sees a shadow, then its 6 more weeks of winter. On the other hand, it the groundhog does not see its shadow, then we only have to endure six more weeks of winter.

Groundhog Day originates from an ancient celebration of the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox—the day right in the middle of astronomical winter. According to superstition, sunny skies that day signify a stormy and cold second half of winter while cloudy skies indicate the arrival of warm weather.

I wouldn’t put too much stock in the groundhog’s forecasting skills. For example, the country’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, has only been right 6 out of the last 29 times. That is a 21 percent accuracy rate.  As of 2016, Punxsutawney Phil has made a career total of 129 predictions, with an early spring (no shadow) predicted 18 times (15.0%). That means that 85% of the time he predicts a late spring.

Either way, those predictions are hard to hold up here in Minnesota, as 6 more weeks of winter means that spring will arrive on March 8. We all know the odds of that happening are slim to none.  This proves that you can never trust a forecast more than a week out. One interesting footnote is that February 2 is also the state record coldest temperature set in 1996. The low dipped to -60 three miles south of Tower.

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