PHIL SAYS 6 MORE WEEKS OF WINTER?


Every February 2nd, thousands gather at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to await the spring forecast from a special groundhog. Punxsutawney Phil as he's known, will emerge from his simulated tree trunk home and look for his shadow, which will help him make his much-anticipated forecast. According to legend, if Phil sees his shadow the United States is in store for six more weeks of winter weather. But, if Phil doesn’t see his shadow, the country should expect warmer temperatures and the arrival of an early spring. What does a groundhog know about weather. Not much but that's beside the point.

Groundhog Day originates from an ancient celebration of the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox—the day right in the middle of astronomical winter. According to superstition, sunny skies that day signify a stormy and cold second half of winter while cloudy skies indicate the arrival of warm weather.

The trail of Phil’s history leads back to Clymer H. Freas, city editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper. Inspired by a group of local groundhog hunters—whom he would dub the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club—Freas declared Phil as America’s official forecasting groundhog in 1887. As he continued to embellish the groundhog's story year after year, other newspapers picked it up, and soon everyone looked to Punxsutawney Phil for the prediction of when spring would return to the country.

As you can see below, since 1887 it's far more likely that Phil will see his shadow than not. According to the official records, his accuracy rate is a less than impressive 39%. This year it's a virtual certainty around my area that old Phil will see his shadow again so expect another 6 weeks of winter. Duh!

While Punxsutawney Phil claims to be the nation’s official forecasting groundhog, he’s not the only furry forecaster in the United States. Some other notable contenders include General Beauregard Lee of Atlanta, Georgia, Sir Walter Wally of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Jimmy of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.

There are even more groundhog forecasters in the running such as Octorara Orphie of Quarryville, Pennsylvania—competition right next door to Phil—Staten Island Chuck from the Staten Island Zoo, Unadilla who hails from Nebraska, Buckeye Chuck from Ohio, French Creek from West Virginia, and the Cajun Groundhog from Louisiana. Ridge Lea Larry is a "stuffed groundhog" from Western New York, and the Tennessee Groundhog of Silver Point, Tennessee, is actually someone dressed up like a groundhog on a motorcycle.

While Groundhog Day is a way to have a little fun at mid-winter, climate records and statistics tell us that winter probably isn't over. Climatologically speaking, the three coldest months of the year are December, January, and February, so winter typically still has a ways to go when the groundhog comes out in search of his shadow on February 2 That's all you need to know! .............................................................................................................................................................

That brings us to the prospect of snow in the coming week. Chances will revolve around a series of disturbances that show minimal variation through the next 7 days as a large trough remains locked in place east of the Rockies. A series of low-amplitude shortwaves embedded within the cyclonic flow will deliver multiple chances for light snow along with several frontal passages and reinforcing shots of cold air. Models tend to struggle mightily with the timing and intensity of these subtle waves in this pattern, which keeps forecast confidence low.

For sure the first disturbance with snow potential arrives late Saturday or Saturday night. The latest trends have been to push the best forcing further north keeping any significant accumulations north of my area. The EURO has this for totals through Sunday.

The GFS looks like this for the same period.

A more organized system for my area shows up on the charts Monday. Models are indicating a much more favorable setup for fluffy/high ratio snow in the dendritic growth zone. I think this system has a pretty good chance of depositing a healthy snow over much of the area, somewhat similar to the snowfall events we saw in a similar pattern about a month ago.

There is far too much uncertainty to pinpoint amounts and location at this distance. However, to show you the potential I will put up the GFS and EURO snowfall forecasts through Tuesday night. Remember, this is only two models depiction of the event and it's not a forecast. This is going to change, the question is how much? So all I'm doing is showing the trends I am seeing as of Thursday night. These maps include any snow that falls over the weekend.

We'll start with the EURO:

Now here's the GFS.

The early week period looks very interesting! That's where things stand tonight. There will be plenty of fine tuning to come. Roll weather...TS

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