A Leap February Prediction

After a bitterly cold January, predicting anything resembling spring seemed like a stretch, but as I looked for my shadow this morning, it was conspicuously missing.

Today is Groundhog Day, the halfway point through winter.  If nothing else, January 2024 will be remembered for a long time for double digit negative temperatures reaching deep into the country, although you may have “missed it” if you live close to either of the coasts.

The good news is that things are looking a bit better now.  The cold has dissipated.  There’s even been a bit of a “heat wave” that moved through, although even this warm spell is about to run into a winter storm, but holding my toes up to the sky this morning, I do sense there’s spring in the near future.

No shadow seen.  I’m definitely leaning towards an early spring.  But fair warning to all you armchair forecasters, astronomical spring is still March 19.  We’re not going to be able to modify that.

No shadows here!

No shadows here!

Chilled to the Bone

With the cross quarter day here, I had to get out of my warm burrow early and head outside to test the weather.  There was a little bit of good news.  Unlike a few days ago, it wasn’t -10°F.  Yes, that’s a minus in front of the ten.  23°F seems almost summer-like by comparison!  Of course I wear a fur coat, so I have a different measure of what really cold is.  -10°F is really cold.

This winter has been unusually cold.  Winter solstice brought bitterly cold weather with temperatures in the negative teens and wind chills down into the negative thirties.  The snow that fell that week is still out, which is also unusual for Colorado.  We haven’t seen a major snowfall, but cold temperatures and regular dustings of snow have maintained that base of white and discourage me from wanting to go outside.  And this past week, another bitter chill, although not enough wind to freeze you to the bone.  It’s just enough to chill you that far, though.

The sun is definitely out this morning, so going with tradition and the miserable weather we’ve been seeing, I have to call for six more weeks of winter this year.

I see that Punxsutawney Phil made the same call this year.  I’m glad he’s getting on the same page with me.  Even a blind (ground)hog will find an acorn occasionally.

It's a Sunny Day!

At least the sun is out!

One Cold Marmot

As I stand in 6” of snow this morning, in 9 degree weather with a wind-chill of -2 degrees – that’s -19 degrees Celsius for my European friends – I have just one thought.  My teeth can’t chatter because I have a horrible overbite.  Well, it’s not horrible.  This is perfectly normal among marmots and all rodents in general, but the point stands.  A thick furry coat is nowhere near enough in this weather!

With snow continuing to fall, it’s easy to give up and say this winter thing isn’t going away any time soon.  We still have piles of snow from the last week of January, but I need to look past what this week is like.  No shadow.  And we are in a La Niña.  I’m definitely leaning towards an early spring.  Just as soon as this February thing blows over.

It’s so cold that snowflakes are not melting when they hit my nose and I’m pretty sure I’m getting snotcicles.  Don’t give up!  Spring is coming!  And yes, Punxsutawney Phil and I still don’t agree on anything.

The Blizzard Marmot

Stormy Marmot braves a blizzard to make the 2022 Groundhog Day prediction.

It’s Winter

Today is Imbolc, a cross-quarter day, the Celtic day for estimating how soon spring will come and when to plant the crops.  It might be counterintuitive, but an overcast sky is a good omen, a sign of coming rain, when fields would thaw and become ready for planting.  And a clear sky is a sign of more cold weather.

Stormy Marmot makes a winter forecast.

Stormy Marmot makes a winter forecast.

Following age-old tradition, I ventured out at sunrise to see how the season was turning out.  It’s seasonably cool, although not terribly cold, and the sun broke the horizon.  There was little doubt that I could see my own shadow this morning.

Today may not seem much like it, but I have this gut feeling that we haven’t seen the last of winter.  Something tells me that a storm is coming.  Much as I like to frolic in early spring grasses, I have to stay with tradition and make a call for six more weeks of winter.

The Flip of a Groundhog

Punxsutawney Phil has been frequently maligned for the accuracy of his forecast.  As of 2020 he is batting a solid 36% accuracy in his prognostications.  Now in baseball a hitter with a .360 would be considered pretty good, but with numbers like this when it comes to predicting weather, you’d be better off just flipping a coin.  Odds are you’d get half your predictions on target.

Punxsutawney Phil - Groundhog Day 2021

Punxsutawney Phil makes a prediction on Groundhog Day 2021.

I watched Phil make a groggy prediction this morning in a snowstorm.  In the middle of a nor’easter, with snow falling, he somehow managed to see his shadow.  Perhaps it was all the flashes from the media coverage he receives that confused Phil into thinking he’s out in the sun.  Phil’s getting old.

As a society we tend to make fun of weathermen.  How often have you heard that being a weatherman is the only profession where you get paid to be wrong?  We remember them being wrong all the time.  This is a cognitive bias.  We tend to remember things better when our expectations turned out to be wrong.  Say the forecast was sunny and you went to a picnic and it was a beautiful day.  You don’t think about the weather.  You enjoyed the picnic.  But if it rains on you, there are some choice words you have for your weatherman.  How dare they!  Your day was ruined.  That’s a memory that sticks out.

In reality statistics show that a seven day forecast tends to be 80% accurate and the closer you get, the better those odds.  The forecast for the next couple of days tends to be 90% on target.

And then there’s Phil.  My myopic cousin has gone from looking for his shadow to randomly picking one of two pre-scripted scrolls.  While untraditional, I have to say that a coin flip to predict the weather would probably be a better process from him.  Pulling your stats from 36% to 50% is an improvement any day!

Good luck, Phil!

Super Bowl LIV

It seems that today is a double holiday.

I’ve gotten a question several times today that I’m not equipped to answer. “Who will win the Super Bowl this year?”

I don’t know. I’m just a marmot! And my prognostication is limited in general. Just one seasonal climatological prediction per year. Winter’s coming. Brace for it.

I don’t know much about sports. Marmots climb rocks, play chase. Sometimes they bite one another. Food, shelter and procreation are really high up on the priority list and can start a fight. Otherwise we don’t really care much about sports. They don’t move the Darwinian needle any.

On a personal level I’m far more interested in the Super Bowl commercials. They’re entertaining and some have a good social message. I’m particularly interested in the fate of Mr. Peanut. I love peanuts! His death has been a very traumatic experience for me.

Super Bowl LIV

Super Bowl LIV

A Cold Prediction on a Warm Day

There may not be any snow, but…

Seven years in a row! That’s how many times I stood ankle deep in the snow and made a Groundhog Day prediction. But not this year. The winter of 2020 has been surprisingly warm. Instead of standing on frigid snow pack, this year my toes fall firmly on dead grass. It’s wilted and frostbitten, but it’ grass. And the temperature is a relatively nice 47 degrees. Okay, it might be a little chilly if you’re a naked monkey, but I come with a built in fur coat and trust me, 47 degrees is pretty nice.

Of course what I stand on when I make my annual prediction is not nearly as important as what tradition dictates and the big question is do I or do I not see my shadow. It’s not my choice. This is a union thing. All the groundhogs do it this way. Of course nature does seem to favor some groundhogs over others. Punxsutawney Phil this year did not see his shadow. I’m guessing his eyes weren’t open because all the photos of the event at Gobbler’s Knob show the sun out. There’ve been a lot of calls for Phil to retire over the last few years, the most recent one from P.E.T.A. Perhaps they’re all right. If you can’t open your eyes to take a measurement, you might be too old for the job. And to make things worse, statistics show that Phil is only 40% correct in his predictions. That’s worse than flipping a coin!

Based on my observations today – a midwinter sunbath on a day promising to reach an unseasonable 71 degrees – I’m leaning towards another six weeks of winter. No, I’m not a meteorologist or a climatologist, but there’s this chill in my toes this morning that tells me I’m right. Don’t put your winter clothes away. Just set them aside and enjoy today’s warm weather. Winter might be late, but it’s not giving up.

A sunny winter morning in Aurora, CO.

A sunny winter morning in Aurora, CO.

Buckle in! Winter’s Coming!

In the very least, Winter does have an intent to linger.

It’s been years since Punxsutawney Phil and I agreed on anything.  Three to be exact.  This year, of course, is no different.  Phil’s morning forecast was for an early spring.  Quite clearly the cold weather of this past week froze his little furry brain.  Groundhog memories are short and a bit of a thaw can certainly lead one down the false path of hope.

I am not a contrarian, but I don’t agree with Phil’s methods.  Winter is winter.  Cold is cold.  We just had a taste and there will be more coming.  When my toes hit the snow this morning and the sun was at my back, I distinctly saw an ominous shadow that is the specter of winter to come.

Wise meteorologists like to remind everyone that winter always ends on March 20, on Spring Equinox, and that’s a great calendar measure, but weather patterns reserve the right not to align with dates on the calendar.  This year I see winter persisting, at least for the length of winter itself, if not a hair longer.  It may not be a popular opinion, but I stand by this prediction.

The specter of winter to come.

The specter of winter to come.

No Shadows Here

Groundhog Day is upon us once again and at the crack of dawn my alarm clock inspired me to venture outside to see how we’ll do this winter.  Shadow or no shadow?

Before I get to my prediction, it’s important to note that as a western prognosticator I tend to fall in the “shadow” of the east coast forecasters.  As always, my nemesis is Punxsutawney Phil, and as it generally turns out, we don’t normally see eye to eye.  For one, I’m a bit taller than he is.

This morning USA Today headlined their front page with “Groundhog Day 2018: Punxsutawney Phil predicts 6 more weeks of winter”.  But if you dig into the article, you will notice a startling revelation:

The Pennsylvania groundhog isn’t the only weather-predicting rodent in this quirky American tradition, but he is the most famous. And according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, his opinion is the only one that matters.

 He’s not always right. But he’s always popular.

That’s right, you heard it from Joel Shannon in the USA Today.  Phil is a fraud.  Joel goes on to say, “even so, there’s some good news: Phil is usually wrong.”

A random guess, a flip of a coin, would only yield results that are 50% accurate, but Weather Underground’s meteorologist Tim Roche, in a Live Science article, indicates that over the last four decades Phil has been right only 36% of the time.  That’s right, you’ll get better results from flipping a coin than from listening to Phil.

So with that said, on February 2, 2018, the cross-quarter day Imbolc, I ventured out of my burrow to practice the age old marmot forecasting methods.  I stood in a clearing and waited for the sun to rise and even though it became light (and my toes got cold in the snow), clouds obscured the sun and there was no shadow.  I happily declare that we are on the verge of an early spring!

Groundhog Day 2018 - no shadows here!

Groundhog Day 2018 – no shadows here!

Groundhog Day 2017

It’s Groundhog Day again and once more it’s time to use the traditional methods to predict weather.  I ventured out into the cold this morning to get a feel for what the next six weeks will have in store for us.  Being in the Mountain Time zone my environmental queues come a couple of hours later than for my counterparts on the east coast.  Long before the sun comes up, I have the opportunity to see how other marmots are forecasting and when the sun comes up in Colorado, there’s already a major disagreement about how long winter will last.  All it tells me is that the marmot community is fragmented and not organized.  And that forecasts are at best regional.

Groundhog Day 2017

It sure looks like there’s no shadow this morning.

So how do things look for Colorado?  It was overcast and murky and sleeting and flurrying off and on.  Needles to say, no shadows.  Relying on folk traditions, I will lean towards an early spring.  And because this is a La Niña year, I have a little science to support this prediction.  La Niña tends to push the Jetstream north and creates heavier precipitation along the northern Pacific and Mountain states, leaving the southwest dryer and warmer.  It’s not good for agriculture or skiing or whitewater sports or forest fires, but that’s how things work.  And that’s two votes for an early spring in the west.

As is the norm, Punxsutawney Phil and I don’t often agree with our predictions.  This year Phil called for six more weeks of winter.  It looks like he’s put on a few extra pounds, so he’s probably good to continue hibernating.  I’m digging through my closet to get ready for spring activities.  Spring is coming!

[whohit]2017-02-02 Groundhog Day 2017[/whohit]