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Seeing shadows: How the groundhog stacks up against the climate record

Groundhogs are cute, but are they accurate forecasters?
February 2, 2017
This isn't Punxsutawney Phil, but he (or she) sure is cute.

In Gobbler's Knob, Pennsylvania, at the crack of dawn today, the nation's most famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and as the legend has it, six more weeks of winter. (Apparently, not all groundhog forecasters agreedoffsite link.)

How accurate was Phil's 2016 prediction?

Phil hit the mark last year when he didn’t see his shadow and predicted that spring had sprung. The contiguous United States saw above average temperatures in both February and March 2016. The Midwest and Northeast, along with the western half of the Lower 48 states, saw above-average February temperatures. But, the Southeast saw near-average February temperatures. Overall, 21 states were much warmer than average during the month.

Last March, every state in the contiguous United States saw above average temperatures. Parts of the Rocky Mountains, Central and Northern Plains, Midwest, and the East Coast were all much warmer than average during the month. Overall, the month ranked as the fourth warmest March for the Lower 48 in our 122-year period of record. It was also the warmest since 2012.

As Phil surely knows, accurate forecasting is hard work. Take a look at how the groundhog has scored against the U.S. temperature record (and download our infographic), courtesy of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information