WeatherMatrix (Jesse Ferrell)
Will Punxsutawney Phil be buried by snow on Groundhog's Day?
By Jesse Ferrell
2/02/2018, 12:45:47 PM
Punxsutawney Phil has, in fact, seen his shadow this morning, forecasting six more weeks of winter (something we had already predicted). There was just a dusting of snow on the ground, and a few flakes flying in the air (the storm dropped up to 6 inches in the West Virginia and southern Pennsylvania mountains, but most of the rest of the state got only flurries.
ORIGINAL BLOG 1/29/2018:
A snowstorm is coming for parts of the Northeast, and it will likely be snowing when the world-renowned groundhog prognosticator Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his burrow this Friday.
Rather than concentrate on how accurate the little critter's predictions are. I'd like to look at the weather history for the day itself. You might think that Groundhog Day is usually snowy, but the stats show that's not necessarily true.*
What the data shows is that 83% of Groundhog Days see no more than a snow flurry, and the most that's ever fallen on Phil on February 2nd is 3 inches, and that only happened once, in 1985. In addition, only about half (55%) of Groundhog Days since 1944 have featured an inch or more of snow on the ground, so it's a crap shoot whether you'll even see snow on the ground there.
The movie "Groundhog Day" movie which showed what appeared to be at least 3 inches of snow (if not more) could not have been accurate, as the only years with 2 or more inches of snow in Punxsutawney were 1955, 1956, 1957, 1965, 1996 and 2015... unless any of those missing years featured snow.
Temperature-wise, there is no missing data, and it's much easier to declare that the coldest temperature observed on Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney was -21, in 1961, and the warmest was 64 degrees in 1989.
When you look at how much snow was on the ground from previous storms (as opposed to a fresh snow, that day, as the movie showed), it starts to look a little more impressive. Although only half the Groundhog Days since 1944 had snow on the ground, 19 had more than 5 inches, and 8 had over 10 inches, with a maximum of 21 inches in 1985. There hasn't been over 10 inches since 1985, but in 2015, there were 9 inches on the ground after 2 inches fell that day -- the most snowy recent Groundhog Day.
What will this week's storm bring? While I do think it will be snowing at 7:30 on Friday, I doubt they will see more than their record of 3 inches -- but that's OK, Groundhog Day will repeat every year, with another chance.
*You might also think they have a historical weather station there, but they haven't, for more than a few years. The closest station I could find with historical data is Putneyville Dam, PA, about 18 miles to the west. Even that station is missing some years of data, shown in red above.
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