Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Should We Trust the Groundhog's Forecast?

Happy Groundhog Day! It's the one day of year that many people listen to the weather forecast of a rodent. There are many different groundhogs making their predictions across the country today, but the best known groundhog is Punxsutawney Phil of Pennsylvania. Phil made his prediction around sunrise this morning when he did not see his shadow. According to folklore, that means an early spring. Punxsutawney Phil does not have a very good track record though with an accuracy rate of only 39%.

North Carolina's own groundhog, Sir Walter Wally has a better track record than Phil. He will make his forecast at noon today in Raleigh. It has been a cloudy start to Groundhog Day in Raleigh, but the clouds should break some around midday. Sir Walter Wally may just see his shadow predicting six more weeks of winter.

What do the long range forecasts from meteorologists say about the rest of winter? The February forecast from the Climate Prediction Center shows equal chances of above normal and below normal temperatures in the Carolinas. While we have had a few warmer days in the last week, it will not stay warm. Below normal afternoon highs will return to the Carolinas tomorrow and Friday. After a few days into early next week of near to above normal temperatures, colder weather looks to return around the middle of next week.

It is tough to say if the cold winter weather we have experienced so far this winter will stick around for the next six weeks. It's best to take long range forecasts with a grain of salt anyway -- whether that forecast is from a groundhog or a human meteorologist. You may remember the long range forecast for this winter was for warmer than average temperatures and drier than normal conditions. That warmer part of that forecast has certainly not worked out. The drier forecast has been more accurate. Since December, Raleigh-Durham is 3.43" behind in rainfall. Wilmington was about 2" behind for January.

Lee Ringer
News 14 Carolina Meteorologist

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