Rodent Prognosticator Decrees Six More Weeks of Winter – We Agree

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Special thanks to ImpactWeather’s StormWatch Manager Fred Schmude for his contributions to this posting.

Even here on the Gulf Coast, I’m about tired of winter (or lack thereof), but now that ground hog is telling me there’s to be six more weeks of it?

Punxsutawney Phil (a marmot in the Sciuridae family, is also known as a wood chuck, whistle-pig and land-beaver) saw his shadow today. That means, according to legend, there will be six more weeks of winter yet to come. Photo: AP

Remember back in late November, December and early January when we saw those fast-moving frontal systems along the U.S./Canadian border? They were strong and cold but they moved so fast that significant snow accumulation was not an issue and the way they were structured prevented the really cold air from sweeping down into (most of) the Lower 48. Now we’re seeing a significantly slower flow pattern during the past few weeks over North America and it looks like this trend will continue into February. A faster flow pattern tends to bring milder Pacific air across the Lower 48 which decreases the risk of significant winter storm systems, while a slower pattern results in significantly more snow across the Great Lakes and interior Northeast.

ImpactWeather Temperature Outlook for February. Degrees shown are variations from normal temperatures. Click for larger image. Image: ImpactWeather

Our latest long-range signals indicate this trend will likely continue through February into the first half of March as the combination of a slower flow pattern and atmospheric blocking sends colder surges of Canadian air southward increasing the risk for more wintry weather over the Lower 48 — something we really haven’t seen much of this season. Even though it’s still too early to predict the severity of any potential wintry weather for the remainder of the season, several ingredients are in place for a more active winter weather pattern for the next six weeks.

In the short term, the Central Plains states from eastern Colorado to Iowa will likely see a strong winter storm system with near blizzard conditions this Friday and Saturday. By early next week, much of California and the Southwest U.S. will see some much needed rain and mountain snow. Even the Northeast U.S. runs the risk of seeing a significant winter storm during the second week of February.

ImpactWeather Precipitation Outlook for February. Shown are variations from normal precipitation amounts. Click for larger image. Image: ImpactWeather

So Phil may indeed be on to something. This year at least, his analysis falls perfectly in line with our current projections. But how well has he done in the past? Check his record against NOAA stats here (hint: why he still has a job, we don’t know!).

By the way, Punxsutawney Phil isn’t the only celebrity animal weather forecaster. Last year Lauren wrote about some of them here, but some are even more brazen in their outright attempts to steal the spotlight. Right here in our own Houston Zoo we have Remley the Asian pig who’s been rooting up her own forecast because we have no ground hogs on hand. What about you? Do you have a local furry forecaster (scaly, slimy, or feathered counts, too) who’s become a celebrity in your area?

We’ve written about Phil and Ground Hog Day before. You can read those previous posts  here and here.

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