CLEVELAND - Since the mid-1800s, groundhogs (or woodchucks) have been trying their hand (or paw?) at predicting the weather. Legend says if the hibernating groundhog sees his shadow at the halfway point of winter, then its back to sleep for another 6 weeks. That's "Strike One."
Humans have been studying meteorology for thousand of years. What makes our furry little friend's forecast so much better or more popular than ours? Nothing! Our predictions are based on science. The groundhog's predictions are based on superstition. That's "Strike Two."
Every year, on February 2nd, tens of thousands of people gather in Punxsatawney, PA to watch the famous Phil put his forecast together. It takes him a matter of minutes to gather all the information he needs to make his ever so popular forecast. And the thousands of watchers applaud at his findings. Besides, with all of the camera lights flashing around Phil, maybe his prediction is off by a lumen or two!
When I forecast, it takes about an hour to gather all of the information I need. And then another hour to make my maps and graphics I use to present my forecast. When its done, there's no applause or comfortable hole to crawl into. Heck, I don't even get a nap afterwards, let alone a 6 week slumber. Typically it is followed by a commercial break. "Sports is next, stay tuned!" No matter how accurate my forecast is. That's Strike Three!
According to Groundhog.org, Punxsatawney Phil is correct about 39% of the time. Despite meager atmospheric measurements & limited data, we are correct about 90% of the time. To add to that, we are forecasting weather that changes continuously, daily, minute by minute. Phil's job description requires about 2 minutes of work per year.
So, why all the hype about the groundhogs and their predictions? OK,I'll admit it: it's an absolute blast to watch! Every state has its own version of Punxs Phil. Catching a live presentation should be on everyone's bucket list. Not only does it add some excitement to a usually cold and snowy start to February, it reminds us that we've made it thru half of winter. Plus, aren't those groundhogs just the cutest little animals?
So, I let the groundhog have his day. As for me, I'm preparing for more cold and snow through February. That's what the science says. Sleep tight, Phil! See you in May. Have a Happy Groundhog Day!
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