30 January 2017

Goundhog Day

Rico says that Groundhog Day, besides being a dumb Bill Murray movie, is a local tradition, starring Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog (photo). It's on 2 February, and will be greeted with groundhog sightings and the traditional weather predictions: if Phil sees his shadow, it's six more weeks of Winter. (The Groundhog Day celebration is rooted in a Celtic tradition that says that, if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on 2 February, the Pagan holiday of Imbolc, winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says, spring will come early.)

Phil is right about sixty-five percent of the time, according to Lisa Wardle at PennLive.com:
Punxsutawney Phil was right last year about our having an early spring. Across Pennsylvania, temperatures for both February and March were above average in 2016. Several regions also saw record daily temperatures during that period.
However, Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary does not have a perfect track record for his 131 years on the job. 
We dug into the data to see just how often he and his handlers get it right.
"Unfortunately, there have been years where the president has misinterpreted what Phil said," handler Ron Ploucha told PennLive last year. "Because Phil is never wrong. Phil's prediction is one hundred percent correct, and we blame the variants on the president's interpretation of Phil's prediction."
Indeed, having two options doesn't provide much wiggle room. Either he sees his shadow and winter continues for six more weeks, or he doesn't, and we get an early spring. Holding Phil accountable only for Pennsylvania weather, we determined criteria for what counted as spring conditions (see methods below) and compared his predictions to historical data.
In 117 years of available records, our calculations show Phil and his translators have been correct about sixty-five percent of the time. 
Some quick facts: The longest streak of correct predictions is twelve years, which occurred from 1958-1969. Phil did not see his shadow on Groundhog Day any of those years.
His longest streak of incorrect predictions (or incorrect translations, perhaps) is three years, which occurred from 1948-1950 and again from 2011-2013.
According to The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's records, Phil has only predicted an early spring seventeen times.
Rico says let's hope he does not see his shadow (enough Winter already), but he did, according to a Weather.com article (with the usual unbloggable video) by Eric Chaney:
Punxutawney Phil saw his shadow on Thursday morning, predicting six more weeks of winter during Groundhog Day festivities at Gobbler's Knob, a small hill just outside Phil's hometown of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
"It's mighty cold weather, you've been braving," this year's verse read. "Is it more winter or is it spring that you're craving? Since you've been up all night and starting to tottle, I, Punxsutawney Phil, shall not dawdle," the proclamation read. "My faithful followers, I could clearly see a beautiful, perfect shadow of me. Six more weeks of winter, it shall be!"
Records dating to 1887 show Phil predicting more winter over a hundred times, while forecasting an early spring just eighteen times, including last year, The Associated Press reports. There are no records for the remaining years.
Dunkirk Dave also predicted six more weeks of winter after emerging in Dunkirk, New York. Dave, actually a female groundhog whose non-stage name is Sidewinder,  is claimed to be the world’s second-longest predicting groundhog.
But General Beauregard Lee, a resident groundhog at Georgia's Yellow River Game Ranch in Gwinnett County, predicted an early spring, along with a Super Bowl win for the Atlanta Falcons.
The Groundhog Day tradition has its origin in a German legend that says if a furry rodent casts a shadow on 2 February, winter continues, The Associated Press reports. If not, spring comes early.
Weather.com senior meteorologist Jonathan Erdman says that most northern cities have to go into April in an average year before feeling safe to store the shovel or snowthrower for the season. On the other hand, for much of the Northeast urban corridor and parts of the Lower Midwest, snow is typically done by the end of March.
Interestingly enough, the cities with the highest percentage of season snowfall after Groundhog Day are New York City and Philadelphia, both typically picking up half of their season's snow after 2 February.
Incredibly, in both Marquette, Michigan, and Tahoe City, California, in the Sierras, another seven feet of snow is typical after 2 February.
Rico says he is not happy about this...

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