Groundhogs: Nature's honorary meteorologists - WNEM TV 5

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Groundhogs: Nature's honorary meteorologists

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Michigan's Woody the Woodchuck Michigan's Woody the Woodchuck

It's that time of year again. We're halfway through Winter, the calendar has flipped over to February, and we begin to seek the quickest path to the warmer and brighter days of Spring. It's also that time when we look to some of our furry friends for their thoughts on how the rest of Winter will play out. Groundhog Day may be the premise of an iconic movie starring Bill Murray, but it's also a day where we get to have a little extra fun with weather forecasting.

Whether it's Punxsutawney Phil, or Michigan's own Woody the Woodchuck, we all know how the saying goes. If the groundhog emerges and sees its shadow, we're in for 6 more weeks of cold, wintry weather. If no shadow is seen, Spring will make an early arrival. But with all of these groundhogs taking on the role of meteorologists for a day each February, are their forecasts accurate enough to trust?

Punxsutawney Phil

Let's start with the most famous groundhog out there, Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil. This guy's got some longevity, as he has been predicting the arrival of Spring since 1887. Cared for year-round by a select few members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil is brought to his temporary home at a place called Gobbler's Knob every year on February 2nd. If Phil returns to his hole after being brought out, it means that he has seen his shadow, and a prediction of 6 more weeks of Winter is announced. If he stays out, early Spring is forecast.

Having done this for nearly 130 years now, how accurate are Phil's forecasts? Since 1887, Phil has predicted longer winter 102 times, early Spring 18 times, and there have been 9 years where no prediction was made.

As far as accuracy goes, his forecasts have only been found to be accurate 39% of the time.

  • Phil's 2017 Prediction: 6 more weeks of winter! 

Woody the Woodchuck

Phil isn't the only name in groundhog meteorologists. We've got our own furry forecaster right here in the Mitten State, Howell's own Woody the Woodchuck. Each Groundhog Day at the Howell Nature Center, Woody is offered the chance to step out and provide some insight into how much more winter we'll have to deal with. While the criteria for Punxsutawney Phil's forecasts are are a closely guarded secret, Woody's are pretty straightforward.

If Woody emerges from her home but retreats in under 30 seconds, or does not come out at all, she is predicting 6 more weeks of Winter. If she emerges from her home and stays out for longer than 30 seconds, the forecast is for early Spring.

While Woody's forecasting career is significantly shorter than Phil's, she has a much better accuracy streak. Since 1999, Woody has predicted longer winter 10 times, and early Spring 8 times. She has been correct a whopping 14 times out of 18, for an accuracy rate of about 78%! While her tenure is far shorter, she currently runs twice as accurate as her Pennsylvania counterpart.

We've got you covered here in the First Warn 5 weather department too!

  • Woody's 2017 Prediction: 6 more weeks of winter!

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