Groundhogs Make Lousy Meteorologists

Tracking the groundhogs' predictions...even though they're bunk...for the 2019 season


Foreword

Ah, Groundhog Day—that annual spectacle where every February 2, we wait with bated breath to hear the alleged forecast from a rodent on whether or not spring will arrive early. If the groundhog sees its shadow, that's supposed to mean six more weeks of winter, but if it doesn't, it means an early spring. If you don't have a local groundhog, you can always rely upon Punxsutawney Phil down in central Pennsylvania, alleged to have been alive for over a century through magic elixirs and claiming 100% accuracy in a nauseating display of kayfabe that requires an extreme level of suspended disbelief.

...and indeed, it's all bunk. First of all, in Punxsutawney Phil's case, the alleged groundhog's predictions, more often than not, don't even match the actual weather conditions on Groundhog Day. The Stormfax Almanac has tracked the conditions for the past 20 years at Punxsutawney and found that, in a shocking two-thirds of cases, the groundhog officially saw his shadow despite it being overcast, rainy or snowy. In fact, Phil's “Inner Circle” decides what he's going to see beforehand... and they're not saying how they do it.

But even so, and we actually assume that the groundhog is seeing or not seeing its shadow based on actual conditions (as is usually the case with most other prognosticating groundhogs), most groundhogs are actually wrong more often than their right. Whereas even random chance would give most groundhogs a 50/50 chance at an accurate forecast (which is what you'll likely get from your Farmer's Almanac and its glorified horoscope), most objective measurements, as far as they can be discerned given the vagueness of it all, have estimated groundhogs as having somewhere between 25% and 45% accuracy, depending on the groundhog and the standard. In other words, you're more likely to get an accurate picture of the weather for February and March by following the opposite prediction of the groundhog! But how?

Well, consider. When do most areas have the most sunshine? Spring and summer! There's a number of reasons for this, but in general, most places have cloudier skies during the winter months. So, if we were to randomly pick a day during the winter and do what meteorologists like to call “forecast persistence” (that is, assume the weather isn't going to change much), it would in fact indicate an early spring if a shadow is seen and a longer winter if there is no shadow, since the conditions that cause sunny skies are more likely to happen on any given day (such as February 2) during a warmer pattern than a colder, more wintry one.

It's still not a perfect forecast (“reversing the polarity” still only gets to between 55% and 75%), since weather systems can and do change a lot in a six-week span, but it does serve as enough proof that groundhog lore is indeed bunk. Hence the title of this page: “Groundhogs make lousy meteorologists.”

Sorry to burst your bubble. Signed, a meteorologist


Predictions

Anyway, here's a list of predictions from 2019's cadre of woodchucks, for entertainment purposes only. This is inspired by a list previously maintained at Wikipedia before they decided two years ago that the list wasn't worth keeping.

For the record, puppets and stuffed animals don't count, as they cannot physically see.

State

Municipality

Groundhog

Prediction

NY
New York City
Staten Island Chuck
No shadow
NY
Holtsville
Holtsville Hal
No shadow
NY
Malverne
Malverne Mel
No shadow
NY
Dunkirk
Dunkirk Dave
No shadow
PA
Punxsutawney
Punxsutawney Phil
No shadow
PA
Reading
Patty Pagoda
No shadow
PA
Quarryville
Octoraro Orphie
Shadow
PA
Lawrenceville
Lawrenceville Lucy
No shadow
PA
Myerstown
Uni
Shadow
PA
York
Poor Richard
Shadow
PA
Mount Joy
Mount Joy Minnie
Shadow
NJ
Milltown
Milltown Mel
Shadow
MD
Cumberland
Western Maryland Murray
Shadow
WV
French Creek
French Creek Freddie
Shadow
OH
Marion
Buckeye Chuck
No shadow
MI
Howell
Woody
No shadow
CT
Manchester
Chuckles
No shadow
NC
Chimney Rock
Greta
Shadow
NC
Raleigh
Sir Walter Wally
Shadow
NC
Charlotte
Queen Charlotte
Shadow
GA
Snellville/Lilburn
General Beauregard Lee
Shadow
AL
Graysville
Smith Lake Jake
Shadow
AL
Birmingham
Birmingham Jill
Shadow
LA
New Iberia
Pierre C. Shadeaux
Shadow
IL
Woodstock
Woodstock Willie
No shadow
WI
Sun Prairie
Jimmy
No shadow
NS
Shubenacadie
Shubenacadie Sam
Shadow
QC
Val-d'Espoir
Fred the Marmot
Shadow
ON
Wiarton
Wiarton Willie
No shadow
AB
Balzac
Balzac Billy
No shadow

J. Myrle Fuller/Fullervision Enterprises, Unltd. 2019