7 Times the Groundhog Was Wrong About a Long Winter — There's Still Hope!
The bad news: On Groundhog’s Day yesterday, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, which means we’re due for a long winter this year. The good news: Phil might be wrong!
Fun fact: When all of Phil’s predictions since Groundhog’s Day began in 1887 are tallied up, he’s correctly predicted whether we’ll have a long winter or an early spring 80 percent of the time. BUT! That still leaves 20 percent of inaccurate predictions! Even better, according to StormFax Weather Almanac, between 1988 and the present, he’s been wrong more often than he’s been right.
How do we know? The National Climatic Data Center has been keeping track of the accuracy of Phil’s predictions based on the temperature data gathered each year. Here’s how it works (disclaimer: I am not a meteorologist, so I’ve dug up all of this via some good old-fashioned internet sleuthing. Here's hoping I understood it all correctly!): There’s this thing called the century average temperature. It’s pretty much what it sounds like; each month of the year has its own century average temperature, a number which tells you what the average temperature in the contiguous U.S. has been during that month over the past 100 years. If Phil predicts a long winter and the temperatures recorded that year are warmer than the century averages for February and March, it means he’s wrong. He’s also wrong if he predicts an early spring and the temperatures recorded that year are colder than the century averages for February and March.
Still with me? Good. So take the following years as examples: In 2012, 2009, 2006, 2005, 2000, 1992, and 1991, Phil saw his shadow, which should have meant we were in for a long winter. However, the average temperatures in February and March recorded for each of those years were warmer than the century averages. The results? A series of pleasantly surprising, early springs. If we’re lucky, the disgusting weather we’re having today — well, disgusting in the Northeast, at least — will be an isolated incident, blowing away like so many clouds after a particularly nasty storm. Raise your hand if you hope Phil was off his game this year!