Friday, October 19, 2012

Take it easy on old Phil

February 2, 2012
It’s a official. At 7:25 A.M. on February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his burrow and saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter.
Now you can make of that whatever you like. Some might say, and have said, that they’ll be happy to take six more weeks of the type of winter we’ve been having. As I type this BLOG it’s 36 degrees outside with a prediction for a high of 64. That’s the kind of winter that most of us can welcome with open arms, but just how much can we rely on the prognostications of our beloved and famed groundhog forecaster?

I’ve done a little research.
In the world of weather forecasting, Punxsutawney Phil isn’t as beloved as we might think. After hearing of Phil’s most recent prediction, WGN meteorologist Tim McGill responded by calling the adorable little rodent (yes, he is a rodent folks) a “punk.” “We might as well ask a giraffe for stock tips. He could probably be just as accurate,” McGill said.
I probably won’t be hitting up any giraffe exhibits for my stock tips any time soon, but McGill’s comment did get me thinking. Really, how well do  the meteorologists we know, love and trust stack up to old Punxsutawney? Not as well as you might hope.
By all accounts I’ve been able to dig up, Punxsutawney Phil is only accurate 39 precent of the time. Remember the record snowstorm on Groundhog’s Day in 2011? Phil woke up that day and predicted an early spring. Don’t jump the Good Ship Punxsutawney just yet though.
In a seven-month study of weather forecasting at Kansas City television stations conducted over 220 days, from April 22 to November 21, 2007 - meteorologists weren’t batting a thousand. When predicting whether it would rain or not, most stations were correct roughly 85 percent of the time one day out. They were correct only about 73 percent of the time seven days out. That’s pretty good, but the study also showed that if a forecaster ALWAYS predicted NO RAIN...they would be correct 86.3 percent of the time. Yikes.
Regardless whether it was rain, snow, temperature or whatever; the more days out it was from the day in question - the harder it was for meteorologists to accurately predict an event. Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction covers six weeks.
I’m certainly not trying to cast dispersions on meteorologists and their predictions. Throughout my time in the news business I have often said they have the hardest job in the business. Literally dozens and dozens of times I have relied on a meteorologist to guide me around a storm during a day of storm chasing. I have a great respect for them.
In turn, I think they should maybe ease up a little on poor Phil. He’s doing the best he can and come on, let’s be honest; he’s adorable.
If you’d like to check out any of the articles mentioned above, I’ve included links to them, and I predict with 100 percent accuracy that they appear below.

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