Phil and His Shadow

February 3, 2012
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By Jillian MacMath for

SINCE THE TRADITION Groundhog Day began in Punxsutawney in 1886, Phil has seen his shadow, on record, 99 times. There were 16 times that he did not see his shadow, and nine years during the late 1800s that there is no record of Phil’s forecast.Though Phil’s method may seem flawed — anticipating that the sight of his shadow determines a longer winter, while no shadow calls for an early spring — he has a tendency to get it right. Because the year’s coldest quarter, also known as meteorological winter, runs from Dec. 5 to March 5, Phil’s accuracy in predicting a longer winter is about 80 percent. Phil’s logic comes from the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox observances of Candlemas Day, tracing back almost 1,000 years.”An early association between the weather forecast and the religious observance is found in a Scottish couplet: ‘If Candlemas is fair and clear / There’ll be two winters in the year.'” AccuWeather broadcaster Elliot Abrams said.

”If the weather is ‘fair,’ the groundhog sees its shadow, and this is supposed to mean six more weeks of winter,” Abrams said. “This is somewhat like saying that despite the sunshine on Groundhog Day, more winter is due. In any case, on this Groundhog Day, it is apparent that for most of the country, winter has been a mere shadow of what typically is. But, we all know it can return.”
According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski, “Phil determining that spring will come early would match the thinking of the Long Range Forecasting Team for parts of the United States.”

Regardless of Phil’s prediction, Jack Boston, an Long Range Forecaster, expects it to feel milder from the last week of February through much of March, with more frequent warm days for the East.

Phil will emerge to make his prognostication around 7:20 a.m. EST on Thursday.

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