We can rely on Punxsutawney Phil… to be wrong
Men in top hats present the groundhog to an adoring audience in a small town in Pennsylvania - little do they know that Mr. Phil can actually be used for forecasting
PUNXSUTAWNEY, PA – So many of us follow Groundhog Day out of a general curiosity and natural inclination toward giving cute animals a spotlight – but what if there’s something scientific to all of this?
Here’s the deal – Punxsutawney Phil is brought out once a year in a grand celebration and given the job to forecast whether or not we can expect an early spring or 6 more weeks of winter.
If he sees his shadow, then we can expect 6 more weeks of winter – if he doesn’t then we’re looking at an early Spring.
So what’s the success rate of old Phil? How about 40%
That’s right – Mr. Phil only accurately predicts the next 6 weeks correctly 4/10 times since the early 1800s…. so we have a pretty good spreadsheet.
We also need to consider that Phil wouldn’t work very well for, say, Alaska – or literally anywhere on planet earth outside Pennsylvania.
But let’s say we -do- live in Pennsylvania… does knowing the shadow versus no shadow outcome give us a heads-up about anything?
If we look at Phil’s track record and use our spreadsheet – there’s a 60% chance that Pennsylvania will have an early Spring, with warmer temperatures and less snow.
So despite the groundhog’s best attempt to be terrible at his job, we can still use that information to make a prediction. It does nothing, however, to save his reputation.
The definition of an “early spring” in the Black Hills means absolutely nothing, as we have received snow in every month of the year – The groundhog wouldn’t dare take a job in this area.