Chris’ Weather Corner - “Groundhog Day 2022: The Verdict is In”
By Chris Gilberti | February 2, 2022
Wikimedia Commons: Punxsutawney Phil’s Prediction being read
It’s official - Punxsutawney Phil woke up on groundhog day and he saw his shadow, which means six more weeks of winter! Well, that is if we are to believe a groundhog’s weather predictions.
The tradition of trusting a groundhog with our weather predictions began back in 1886 and has continued to this day after arriving in America with German immigrants who settled farms in Pennsylvania. The tradition back in Europe stated that on Feb. 2, the halfway point of the winter season also called “Candlemas,” candles would be blessed and distributed to get people through the winter. If the sky was sunny on that day, winter would continue for six more weeks, but if it were cloudy, spring would arrive two weeks early. Eventually this tradition would change as the farmers in Pennsylvania would watch animals to get cues of the weather, and determined that if the groundhogs saw their shadows on that day, six more weeks of winter would be in store. Since then, towns across the country have held ceremonies with groundhogs to see how much longer their winter will be, although the one at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania featuring the aptly named groundhog “Punxsutawney Phil,” has become the most well known and popularized across the country.
Though many across the country have grown to love Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions, he unfortunately is not always correct. In reality, according to NOAA, he has only been correct 40% of the time over the last ten years. So this begs the question: will he be right this year? Well, while it is hard to say for certain, there are some signs that he may be. Initial predictions for this winter showed that the early half would be cold and snowy with that pattern changing by the end of the season. Recently however, model guidance has shifted more toward keeping cold weather around the northeast for a little longer than initially forecasted, perhaps through some of March.
Photo Credit: NOAA displaying Phil’s accuracy over the last 10 years.
While the chances of cold weather sticking around for the rest of the winter are questionable, it will certainly continue to feel like winter for the time being. On Groundhog day itself, a storm was beginning to develop across much of the country. Snow will fall from central Texas through the Midwest and Ohio Valley along a stalled front from Feb. 2 through Feb. 4. This front will begin to slowly sink into New York State on Thursday, starting out as rain for most of the day, with a lengthy transition to freezing rain, sleet, and snow possible overnight Thursday and throughout the day Friday. It will have the potential to drop a layer of ice and or sleet along with a moderate to possibly heavy snowfall in Albany and areas further north.
Even though Punxsutawney Phil may not always be the most trustworthy source for our weather forecast, his prediction for a longer winter may hold true for at least the time being, as snow begins to fall and temperatures plunge to below zero after the latest storm passes.