The date is February 2nd, you are awakened at 6:00am to the last few verses of "I've Got You Babe" by Sonny & Cher. Then the shock jock morning team out of Punxsy, PA interludes with their insights on how cold it is outside and that the National Weather Service has issued a blizzard thingy for the area. It must be the middle of winter and It's Groundhog Day!
Yes, the tradition of determining whether or not a groundhog, woodchuck, snake, etc. saw their shadow at the pre-determined time on this February morning is supposed to provide an outlook to the rest of the winter season. In other words, 6 more weeks of winter or an early spring. Here are what both Jimmy in Sun Prairie & Puxsutawney Phil have announced...
To break the proverbial tie between our furry friends, we exclusively had Woody the Woodchuck from the Wisconsin Woodchucks in our studios on Thursday morning. After he did some careful analysis in our weather lab, he determined that he also saw his shadow. So based on that, we'll go with it still being winter-like out until March 20th rolls around.
Before I move on, you may be wondering how accurate Jimmy & Phil have been over the years. Wait no longer, because here are the facts...
Year Phil Jimmy Result in Wausau
2012 More Winter Early Spring ???????????
2011 Early Spring Early Spring Chilly & Snowy-Still Winter
2010 More Winter Early Spring Mild Feb/Warm March
2009 More Winter More Winter Seasonably Chilly-Still Winter
2008 More Winter Early Spring Cold & Wintry
2007 Early Spring More Winter Cold Feb/Warm March
2006 More Winter Early Spring Around Avg-Still Winter
2005 More Winter Early Spring Warm Feb/Cold March
2004 More Winter Early Spring Around Avg-Still Winter
The disclaimer for Jimmy in Sun Prairie is that there has to be 7 days in a row before the vernal equinox (March 20th) of above freezing temps for it to be considered an early spring. I assume this would be high temperatures, but either way, at least some way of seeing of the pick was correct. One thing you will notice is that Jimmy is much more prone to not seeing his shadow than Phil. Typically in both Wisconsin & Pennsylvania, there are more cloudy than bright days during this time of the year, although there are some extra "voices" that provide input into what Phil's prediction ends up being. The obvious pick is to say 6 more weeks of winter, however if there is a consensus between the two, that doesn't mean the odds are better. Far from it. Last year when both these guys predicted an early spring, they ended up being wrong. Ask the folks in Chicago who got slammed with 1-2 feet of snow on that Groundhog Day, stranding cars on Lake Shore Drive.
Meantime, the first half of winter across the region has been milder than average. Here's how we've compared through the end of January in temperatures...
The most recent mild first 2/3rds of the winter season was five years ago and when you crunch all the numbers, this year is only a couple tenths of a degree lower. To this point in Wausau, there have been 5 low temperatures that have dipped below zero. In a typical winter, Wausau experiences roughly 32 days with sub-zero readings. The weather pattern for most of the winter has featured a split flow, with the northern jet stream floating around and north of the Badger State, pushing Pacific storm systems our way. These typically don't have a lot of moisture to work with and this isn't a favorable set up for bringing down prolonged periods of frigid weather. The southern jet stream meantime has kept the strong storms to our south, but at the same time as provided some spring-like days in the southern half of the country, including a few days of severe storms. Time will tell if the storm track will change in the weeks ahead, but I would caution you to keep your guard up for notable snowfalls, along with a few shots of cold air before spring finally does settle in.
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