Forecast For the Groundhog's Prediction Thursday

February 2, 2012; 12:01 AM ET
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AccuWeather broadcaster Elliot Abrams, on the far right, meets the groundhog on Groundhog's Day in 2011.

Punxsutawney Phil is getting ready to make his annual prediction at Gobbler's Knob this morning, and has clues to what he should say.

Phil will emerge from his burrow in western Pennsylvania at 7:20 a.m. EST this morning to determine how the rest of winter will unfold.

If the groundhog witnesses his shadow, six more weeks of winter will follow. Spring will come early if no shadow appears.

Latest indications point to Phil not seeing his shadow. It will still be mostly cloudy as Phil steps out to make his prognostication this morning. The temperature will be right around freezing.

Phil, however, may surprise meteorologists and see his shadow even if the sky is cloudy. Remember, the bright lights of cameras will be on Phil as he gives his annual prediction.

Phil determining that spring will come early would match the thinking of the Long Range Forecasting Team for parts of the United States. Long Range Forecaster Jack Boston expects more frequent warm days for the East from the last week in February through much of March.

The East has experienced mild days numerous times so far this winter, but occasional cold blasts have put temperatures on a roller coaster ride. There will be less of these cold shots late February into March.

Boston also feels that February will be a stormier month with storms set to track from the southern Plains to the East.

One such storm has the potential to bring significant snow to a part of the Northeast later this week, according to Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

With the warm air in place, the Long Range Forecasting Team is especially concerned for major severe weather events to unfold from mid-February into March in the corridor from East Texas to the Carolinas.

The interior of the Northeast and the Great Lakes, however, may view a prediction of an early spring as being wrong.

The expected storm track should put these areas in line to receive significantly more snow than recent months.

The opposite will take place in the Northwest with an invasion of Pacific storms to become less frequent in February.

A few of the storms with the East as their final destination in February may first drop into the Southwest, delivering much needed rain. However, a surge of warm temperatures will quickly follow any storm.

The tradition of Groundhog's Day stems from the early Christian holiday of Candlemas Day, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's official website. How winter came to an end would depend on the weather that day.

When the Germans were introduced to this tradition, they incorporated a hedgehog and its viewing of a shadow. The groundhog, common in Pennsylvania, replaced the hedgehog when the Germans settled in America.

Punxsutawney Phil's shadow has been observed 99 times since 1887, while Phil has only predicted an early spring 16 times (2011 being the last). A record of the prediction was not kept on nine occasions in the late 1800s.


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