Who is Punxsutawney Phil, and how accurate is he when it comes to forecasting weather for the Borderland?
EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Every February 2, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club celebrates Groundhog Day by seeing if their beloved Phil- a groundhog, and star of the show- will predict six more weeks of winter, or an early spring. The tradition has a long line of history, dating back to the mid-1800s. However, according to this CNN article, there's evidence that suggests the tradition goes back even further, to pre-Christian Europe!
To determine if spring will come early, Club members watch and wait until the groundhog leaves its burrow. If the groundhog sees his shadow, Phil predicts six more weeks of winter. If the groundhog doesn't see his shadow, he is predicting an early spring. However, it doesn't appear that our StormTRACK Weather team will be out of their jobs any time soon.
After reviewing the data set of Punxsutawney Phil's predictions since 1887, the groundhog predicted a continuation of winter 108 times, and an early spring 20 times, for a whopping 39% accuracy. Other articles make the point that you or I could be more accurate by flipping a coin, which has a 50/50 shot at predicting the weather.
Now, what does this mean for the Borderland with regard to an extended winter or early spring? According to the Climate Prediction Center, their one-month outlook shows equal chances of being warmer or colder than average in the region, as well as slightly below-average precipitation amounts. According to the CPC's three-month outlook, the Borderland is forecasted to have well above-average temperatures, but below-average precipitation.
The catch is, climate is measured over long-term periods, whereas weather is measured over the short term. That being said, the Borderland may still experience some cold snaps and winter precipitation, even if the CPC says it's not as likely. We will just have to wait and see if Punxatawney Phil is accurate this year.