How well does Punxsutawney Phil do?

February 3rd, 2013 at 4:35 pm by under Weather

Saturday, Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow.


According to folklore, that means we’re in for an early spring. Not hard to believe considering our warm temperatures here lately!

But, just how accurate is Phil’s prediction?

Here’s a comparison from NOAA.

Punxsutawney Phil Vs. the U.S. National Temperature 1988–2012

The table below gives a snapshot by year since 1988 whether Phil saw his shadow or not along with the corresponding monthly national average temperature departures for both February and March. The table shows no predictive skill for the groundhog during the most recent years of this analysis. Since 1993, the U.S. national temperature has been above normal 11 times in February, 12 times in March, below normal 6 times in February, 3 times in March, and near normal 3 times in February and 5 times in March.

Year Shadow February Temperature Departure March Temperature Departure
2012 Yes Above Above
2011 No Slightly Below Slightly Above
2010 Yes Below Above
2009 Yes Above Slightly Above
2008 Yes Slightly Above Slightly Below
2007 No Below Above
2006 Yes Above Above
2005 Yes Above Slightly Above
2004 Yes Below Above
2003 Yes Below Above
2002 Yes Above Below
2001 Yes Slightly Above Tied Average
2000 Yes Above Above
1999 No Above Above
1998 Yes Above Below
1997 No Above Above
1996 Yes Above Below
1995 No Above Above
1994 Yes Below Above
1993 Yes Below Above
1992 Yes Above Above
1991 Yes Above Above
1990 No Above Above
1989 Yes Below Above
1988 No Below Above

In 2012, the contiguous United States (CONUS) average annual temperature of 55.32°F was 3.25°F above the 20th century average, and was the warmest year in the 1895-2012 period of record for the nation. The 2012 annual temperature was 1.0°F warmer than the previous record warm year of 1998. During February, the contiguous United States experienced above-average temperatures with a national average temperature of 37.7°F. This was 3.5°F above average, making it the 16th warmest February on record. Record and near-record breaking temperatures dominated the eastern two-thirds of the nation and contributed to the warmest March on record for the contiguous United States, a record that dates back to 1895. The average temperature of 50.33°F was 8.57°F above the 20th century average for March and 0.56°F warmer than the previous warmest March in 1910. Of the more than 1,400 months that have passed since the U.S. record began, only one month, January 2006, has seen a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012. Take a look at the February and March 2012 maps which give a pretty good idea on the distribution of temperatures across the United States. It really isn’t a “bright” idea to take a measure such as a groundhog’s shadow and use it as a predictive meteorological tool for the entire United States.

February 2012 Statewide Ranks Map

March 2012 Statewide Ranks Map

Interested in doing your own analysis? More complete data are available, on Phil’s Historical Predictions and the NCDC Historical Monthly Temperature Data on the Climate at a Glance Web page. The graphs are part of the NCDC Climate Monitoring Branch monthly products.

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