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Blog on the Hog: Does Phil Have Skill?

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Updated: 2/02/2012 10:29 am
Thursday, February 2, 2012... Groundhog Day: Does Phil Have Skill?

Good Thursday morning, everybody, and happy Groundhog Day!

Despite a thick overcast above west-central Pennsylvania this morning, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow once again.  In fact, he lives in an area that is remarkably cloudy during the winter time (due to a combination of terrain and being downstream of Lake Erie), but Phil has seen his shadow more than 85% of the time, on his big day.  Why?  I don't want to be a "Debbie Downer", but dozens of camera lights may play more than just a small role in the annual charade.

Phil's prediction: Six more weeks of winter (or whatever you might call the past month or two, in our mild weather pattern).

 

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Courtesy: Associated Press / ABC

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This all begs the question: DOES PHIL HAVE ANY PREDICTIVE SKILL???

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Instead of re-inventing the wheel on my own, our tax dollars have already been put to work to address the question.  The National Climatic Data Center (a branch of NOAA) has crunched the numbers, and determined that NO, Phil does not produce a reliable forecast.  With all do respect to the famous hog, here is what the NCDC has learned:

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The NCDC began by tabulating the number of years in which Phil saw his shadow vs. didn't see his shadow.

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So as much as we may love Phil, perhaps he should keep his day job and continue doing what he does, the other 364 days each year (or this year, 365 other days... after all, it is a leap year!).

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Today, Groundhog Day, is also Candlemas - a holiday celebrated in some branches of Christianity.  Today is also the approximate midpoint of the official winter season... the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal (Spring) Equinox.

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While it is far too early to give the "all clear" to winter (I do expect we'll see at least a little snow late this month and potentially into early March), some of the plant life in Estill County is already showing signs of spring.  Here is a great photo from Ravenna, right down the road from Irvine. 

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Courtesy: Scott Woosley

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Thanks for sharing that photo, Scott!  We'll see how those blooms fare through mid February, when colder air appears to be on its way.

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Here is another photo that just arrived - a decent shot of a blue jay from Karla Reeves in Stanton. 

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And perhaps, instead of Punxsutawney Phil, this may be Stanton Stan:

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Thanks, Karla!

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I'll leave you with two storm reports from last night.  A few non-severe thunderstorms produced heavy rain and even a little bit of small hail.  While most areas ended up receiving around 1/4" of rain yesterday, the Kentucky Mesonet site in Lebanon received 1.40" of rain, largely due to a heavy thunderstorm that rolled overhead.  Later in the evening, pea size hail came down heavily enough to cover the ground around 9:52 in Maysville, up in Mason County.  Some of you also reported small hail in Nicholasville, through the ABC 36 Facebook Page.

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Whether you believe Phil or not, HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY!  Enjoy the continuation of the mild weather.

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Meteorologist Geoff Cornish

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