Earlier today, famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil came out to cheering fans and apparently did not see his shadow. According to folklore, when Phil doesn’t see his shadow, spring will make an early appearance. But during the official winter of 2019-2020, many, especially those in the eastern United States, are wondering if weather will truly ever make a presence. Cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC are seeing one of the least snowy winter seasons on record so far.
While Phil is simply folklore not rooted in science or in accuracy, computer models that meteorologists and earth scientists use don’t see winter making a serious presence in the east anytime soon either. While Phil’s accuracy is only 35-40%, the computer models are much better with forecasting trends, especially in the 4-8 week period.
The latest American GFS forecast model doesn’t show much in the way of blockbuster snowstorms for the Mid Atlantic and northeast; if anything, it’s rather lackluster with its forecast. While a series of low pressures will move through the U.S., most snow will be confined to the Rockies and to northern, interior New England. Places like New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC have better shots at cold rain than heavy snow if the American GFS were to be right.
And on this Groundhog’s Day, Punxsutawney Phil agrees with no significant winter weather in sight for his Pennsylvanian town. A Weatherboy meteorologist previously sat down with Phil and the President of the Groundhog Club, William Deeley, to understand their forecast.
“The tradition of Phil started in our homeland of Germany. Our ancestors were farmers and eagerly awaited the end of the long German winter so we could begin the process of getting our fields ready for planting our crops. In Germany there were no groundhogs but we did have hedgehogs. They served the same purpose as Phil here. Unfortunately, in the middle of the cold Germanic winter, our hedgehog usually ended up on someone’s dinner plate,” said Deeley. As these German farmers settled in Pennsylvania, they wanted to hold on to this tradition of the hedgehogs predicting the end of winter. But, finding no hedgehogs in the United States, they settled on a much bigger and furrier rodent, the groundhog. “Our ancestors found this particularly handsome groundhog here and named him Phil Sowerby. We treat him like gold.” Today, Phil carries his town’s name as his last name.
And now we wait: will Phil and the forecast models be right for the next several weeks?