Meteorologist Vs. Groundhog

Posted at 8:06 AM, Feb 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-01 08:06:15-05

(WEST MICHIGAN) – With Groundhog’s Day on Saturday. some may be wondering will Phil, or any other popular rodent, see his shadow this year? I can’t answer that for sure…I was never a believer in the whole Groundhog thing…since it hinges on what the sky conditions will be. In fact, when I was a meteorologist in Madison, Wisconsin before coming to West Michigan, Jimmy the Groundhog from Sun Prairie was pulled out early in the morning. The problem? It all happened a minute or two before sunrise. Obviously, there is no shadow if the sun isn’t up!

Meteorologists at the Climate Prediction Center, part of NOAA, spend all day combing through computer forecast models and long-term information. They constantly update and refine the forecast for weekly outlooks, monthly outlooks, and three-month outlooks. While the CPC claims the overall accuracy of the groundhog is 61 percent, that’s not all bad for an animal with no meteorological background.

The attached snapshot shows the temperature outlook for the entire United States for the next 30 days. The best chance for above normal temps will be across Texas and the south, while below normal temps may occur in northern California and across the southern portion of the Pacific Northwest. That said, the 30 day outlook for precipitation has above normal chances across the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes. Click here for the map. Get the text description of the maps here.

90 day outlook maps can be found here. What meteorologists tend to look at when they develop their long-range forecasts is the position of the upper level steering currents like the jet stream, and any El Nino or La Nina impact if there is one. If you still prefer to use Phil or any one of his friends or relatives to forecast the weather, here’s a link where you can watch the stream live on Saturday.

Of course, you can always get West Michigan’s most accurate and reliable forecast from the FOX 17 team of meteorologists each day by going to Have a great weekend!