Extreme Temperature Diary- February 2nd, 2024/ Main Topic: Ha Ha…A Toasty Groundhog Predicts an Early Spring

Punxsutawney Phil does not see his shadow, predicts an early spring – The Washington Post

Punxsutawney Phil says early spring. Here’s why that could be a thing.

Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow. His predictions are pretty bad, though.

By Kasha Patel

Six more weeks of winter slacks or an early welcome to springtime tasks? It depends on which mammal you want to ask.

On Friday, Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog, announced his weather forecast. If he sees his shadow, expect a winter blast. If he doesn’t, get ready for spring — fast. This year, he saw no shadow to cast. He declared an early spring, taking many aghast.

It’s true that groundhogs, even ones with human names, don’t know much about weather prediction. His forecasts are mostly fiction, but he chirps it with a lot of conviction.

Since 1887, Phil forecast accurately about 40 percent of the time — that’s worse than flipping a dime.

Seeing his shadow is a common component. Eighty-five percent of his predictions call for an extended cold moment. He is clearly a big wintertime proponent, but that’s probably because he’s a hibernating rodent.

Phil rarely forecasts spring to come early. Maybe this time he’ll be more accurate, surely.

The fact that he tries could merit some admiration. It’s hard to predict one condition for the entire country, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Even NOAA predicts weather for different regions across the nation.

The National Weather Service issues seasonal outlooks based on computer models and science. They do not have a groundhog for reliance.

According to the Weather Service, the northern United States will probably see temperatures above average degrees. If you like a warm Pacific Northwest and Alaska, warmer-than-normal temperatures may put you at ease. In the Northeast, an early spring bloom could activate your allergies. Southwestern Texas may see a below-average breeze. The mid- to low latitudes have equal chances of above-, near- or below-average temperatures, which I admit is a bit of a tease.

The Weather Service’s warmer forecast is not too strange. Winter is the fastest warming season in the United States because of climate change. An excess of greenhouse gases more frequently pushes weather beyond the typical range.

Warmer winters still allow cold snaps to roar, just not as intense as before. Although a warmer world could push blasts of cold air to mid-latitudes more. Scientists say that’s a mechanism they are continuing to explore.

A strong El Niño, characterized by a warmer region in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean, is also in play. The warmer waters push the Pacific jet stream to a more southerly stray. That brings warmer and drier-than average winter conditions in the northern U.S., scientists say. Southern U.S. regions are affected in a cooler and wetter way.

Punxsutawney Phil probably hasn’t accounted for climate change or the current El Niño pattern in many of his weather prognoses. Maybe that’s why he’s wrong more often than not, if I had to give diagnoses.

In any case, human weather forecasters are on the job, especially when a groundhog thinks a weather map is a bunch of blobs.

By Kasha Patel Kasha Patel writes the weekly Hidden Planet column, which covers scientific topics related to Earth, from our inner core to space storms aimed at our planet. She also covers weather, climate and environment news. Twitter

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