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Six more weeks of winter!

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:27 PM GMT on February 02, 2010

Punxsutawney Pennsylvania's famous prognosticating rodent, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow this morning. According to tradition, this means that a solid six more weeks of winter can be expected across the U.S. From the official web site of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, groundhog.org:

Here Ye! Here Ye! Here Ye!

On Gobbler's Knob on this fabulous Groundhog Day, February 2nd, 2010
Punxsutawney Phil, the Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of all Prognosticators,
Awoke to the call of President Bill Cooper
And greeted his handlers, Ben Hughes and John Griffiths

After casting a joyful eye toward thousands of his faithful followers,
And a bright sky above me
Showed my shadow beside me.

Six more weeks of winter it will be.


How did this this crazy tradition start?
It all started in Europe, centuries ago, when February 2 was a holiday called Candlemas. On Candlemas, people prayed for mild weather for the remainder of winter. The superstition arose that if a hibernating badger woke up and saw its shadow on Candlemas, there would be six more weeks of severe winter weather. When Europeans settled the New World, they didn't find any badgers. So, they decided to use native groundhogs (aka the woodchuck, land beaver, or whistlepig) as their prognosticating rodent.

What the models say
The latest long-range runs of the ECMWF and GFS models show the jet stream following a typical El Niño winter configuration. A northern branch dipping down over the Northeast U.S. will bring seasonably cold temperatures to the eastern half of the country, with a compensating ridge of high pressure bringing milder temperatures to the Northwest U.S. (and the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada). A second branch of the jet stream will be active across Southern California, Texas, and the Southeast U.S., bringing cooler and rainier weather than average. There are no indications that the jet stream will get "stuck" in a high-amplitude pattern that will bring long-lived record cold to any portion of the country, such as occurred over Florida in early January. At this point, I don't see any reason to disagree with Punxsutawney Phil's fearless forecast of a normal six more weeks of winter.


Figure 1. Departure of winter temperature from average for February. This is a very typical pattern for an El Niño winter. Image credit: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

Next post
My next post will be Wednesday, when I plan to talk about the status of this year's El Niño.

Jeff Masters


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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160. atmoaggie
10:45 PM GMT on February 02, 2010
Quoting jeffs713:

In Houston, our motto from late november to late february is "Don't like the weather? Wait 5 minutes, it will change."

I usually call this time of year "Fring"...a freaky fall spring transitional hybrid season...
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
159. AussieStorm
10:44 PM GMT on February 02, 2010
Quoting jeffs713:

In Houston, our motto from late november to late february is "Don't like the weather? Wait 5 minutes, it will change."

They say the same thing in Melbourne :-)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
158. Bordonaro
10:43 PM GMT on February 02, 2010
155. KOG, gosh man I love you like a brother from a different mother, do you have to rub it in? Well, today, after 5 days the sun is out and we hit 54F/12C, still below normal.

That 60-76F/15-24C spell we had for about 2 weeks spoiled me rotten. We hit 79F/26C one day last month, at the Arlington, TX Municipal AP, an official reading
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
157. AussieStorm
10:42 PM GMT on February 02, 2010
I find this Ground hog day thing funny, He saw his shadow, meaning it was daytime.... don't most people see there shadow in the daytime?

How come there is no ground hog day in August, to say if there is going to be or not, 6 weeks more of summer?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
156. Bordonaro
10:40 PM GMT on February 02, 2010
Quoting jeffs713:

In Houston, our motto from late november to late february is "Don't like the weather? Wait 5 minutes, it will change."


Yes that is a famous Texas expression and is used quite a bit in Western NY state, near Buffalo, Rochester to near Watertown, NY.

In Buffalo, NY during a lake-effect snow event, you can drive 10 miles and go from sunny and 25F, into a raging snowstorm.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
155. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:40 PM GMT on February 02, 2010
Quoting Bordonaro:


Great, let me see if I can find a cheap boat or a big inflatable raft on Craig's list.

The GFS models are indicating Dallas-Ft Worth, TX may see snow next Mo or Tu, 2/8-9. The NWS DFW office mentioned that this morning in the area forecast discussion. The ECMWF shows a rain event and GFS shows a snowstorm.

The preliminary climate figures for 1-10 for the DFW, TX area showed we were 0.2F above normal, with temps ranging from a low of 13 to a high of 76. God Texas weather is NEVER boring!

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
154. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:37 PM GMT on February 02, 2010
Quoting Jeff9641:
Spring has already started in Central and South Florida. Average high in orlando in 2 weeks goes up to 77.
well lets not warm up too fast
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
153. jeffs713
10:36 PM GMT on February 02, 2010
Quoting Bordonaro:


Something you experienced last week. For the majority of us, its that real cold, nasty, snowy, sleety, rainy time of the year.

Here in Dallas-Ft Worth, TX, it means we can experience winter, late spring or mid fall weather on any given day. And every few years or so, we have summer like temps too!

In Houston, our motto from late november to late february is "Don't like the weather? Wait 5 minutes, it will change."
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
152. Bordonaro
10:35 PM GMT on February 02, 2010
Quoting 1900hurricane:
It looks like HPC is following the SREF average very closely.




Great, let me see if I can find a cheap boat or a big inflatable raft on Craig's list.

The GFS models are indicating Dallas-Ft Worth, TX may see snow next Mo or Tu, 2/8-9. The NWS DFW office mentioned that this morning in the area forecast discussion. The ECMWF shows a rain event and GFS shows a snowstorm.

The preliminary climate figures for 1-10 for the DFW, TX area showed we were 0.2F above normal, with temps ranging from a low of 13 to a high of 76. God Texas weather is NEVER boring!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
151. Minnemike
10:33 PM GMT on February 02, 2010
Quoting NRAamy:
Quoting Grothar:


Hey, I worked on that for days.


yes, and I worked on that Big Bird story for a full 30 seconds, with no response from you...you don't hear me whining about it.....suck it up...

love it! i'm gonna spend 45 seconds working out my own Big Bird story tonight... i'll have a new blog up tomorrow, comments needed!
for on-topic discussion: i am also looking forward to winter wrapping up in 6 weeks, ahead of MN schedule..
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting NRAamy:
Winter? what's that?

;)


Something you experienced last week. For the majority of us, its that real cold, nasty, snowy, sleety, rainy time of the year.

Here in Dallas-Ft Worth, TX, it means we can experience winter, late spring or mid fall weather on any given day. And every few years or so, we have summer like temps too!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
It's been raining since yesterday morning here. Needless to say it really soggy outside.
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Quoting Grothar:


Hey, I worked on that for days.


yes, and I worked on that Big Bird story for a full 30 seconds, with no response from you...you don't hear me whining about it.....suck it up...
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:



CANES!!!!!


Mind going on chat? Got something for ya!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Hey, I worked on that for days. LOL


When I go to your blog, all I see is a blank space with 4 photos on the right hand side. Not even any comments!

Is there a secret password?
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Quoting Grothar:


Is that touch or touché?

Okay, I was commenting in there, and then all of a sudden, "This entry has been removed". If you lost my post, I am gonna be mad...you are going to have to buy me a beer in Miami next week.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting NEwxguy:


Throws a snowball!!!!


That deserved a slush ball!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting caneswatch:


Grothar!!!!!



CANES!!!!!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting atmoaggie:

Google toolbar can do the translation okay...

Gro never said anything about my blog, either, even after a number of prods to do so. And I thought he might actually enjoy it, given that most of it was written by a literary master, and all.


Is that touch or touché?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting tornadodude:



it would take me weeks to translate it lol


you didnt comment on mine either :P

Google toolbar can do the translation okay...

Gro never said anything about my blog, either, even after a number of prods to do so. And I thought he might actually enjoy it, given that most of it was written by a literary master, and all.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Hey, I worked on that for days. LOL


Grothar!!!!!
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Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting NRAamy:
Winter? what's that?

;)


Throws a snowball!!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Winter? what's that?

;)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
6 more weeks only takes me into the middle of March,I'll take that,thats a short winter for me.
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Quoting xcool:
Six more weeks of winter! YEAH OK

Maybe we can be lucky if it is only 6 weeks ...
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
133. xcool
NOT HERE IN NEW ORLEANS .
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132. xcool
Six more weeks of winter! YEAH OK
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Quoting AussieStorm:
Since you guys are ment to be getting 6 more weeks of winter, does that mean were going to get 6 more weeks of summer?


Of course, summer has to stay somewhere.
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Quoting PcolaDan:


Is all this north or down in Hessen too?
I don't know.
Best you check weatherunderground german weather map

The article with google translation
http://translate.google.de/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.spiegel.de%2Fpanorama%2F0%2C1518%2C675503%2 C00.html&sl=de&tl=en&hl=&ie=UTF-8
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Since you guys are ment to be getting 6 more weeks of winter, does that mean were going to get 6 more weeks of summer?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Hey, I worked on that for days. LOL



it would take me weeks to translate it lol


you didnt comment on mine either :P
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Quoting tornadodude:


donezo


Hey, I worked on that for days. LOL
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Hey TD you never commented on my new blog!!!!


donezo
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Quoting atmoaggie:

Was entertaining, but then a sudden post on AGW. Somewhat like farting in a tent....


yeh,and the same result,everyone leaves the tent
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Quoting atmoaggie:

Was entertaining, but then a sudden post on AGW. Somewhat like farting in a tent....


Hey atmoaggie, care to comment on my blog?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting NEwxguy:
Amazing how long we can carry on a blog about groundhogs,whistlepigs,gophers,prairie dogs,whatever you want to call them,Oh the slow months of winter!!!!

Was entertaining, but then a sudden post on AGW. Somewhat like farting in a tent....
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
so I went to Urban Dictionary to see what their definition of whimsical was, and I saw this instead-

Evasive Mumbling:

Mumbling the answer to a question in hopes that the questioner won't hear or understand an answer that may get you in trouble.

When mom asks about that broken plate, you better answer with some evasive mumbling.
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Quoting tornadodude:
here ya go Aim:

Winter Storm Warning

URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON DC
335 PM EST TUE FEB 2 2010

DCZ001-MDZ009-013-VAZ030-031-040-042-050>054-501-502-WVZ053-
030445-
/O.CON.KLWX.WS.W.0005.100202T2100Z-100203T1200Z/
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA-MONTGOMERY-PRINCE GEORGES-WARREN-CLARKE-
RAPPAHANNOCK-LOUDOUN-ORANGE-CULPEPER-
PRINCE WILLIAM/MANASSAS/MANASSAS PARK-FAIRFAX-
ARLINGTON/FALLS CHURCH/ALEXANDRIA-NORTHERN FAUQUIER-
SOUTHERN FAUQUIER-JEFFERSON-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...WASHINGTON...GAITHERSBURG...
FRONT ROYAL...LEESBURG...CULPEPER...MANASSAS...MANASSAS PARK...
FAIRFAX...ALEXANDRIA...FALLS CHURCH...WARRENTON...CHARLES TOWN
335 PM EST TUE FEB 2 2010

...WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 7 AM EST
WEDNESDAY...

A WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 7 AM EST
WEDNESDAY.

* PRECIPITATION TYPE...SNOW.

* ACCUMULATIONS...3 TO 6 INCHES.

* TIMING...DEVELOPING THROUGH 6 PM...ENDING BETWEEN 4 AM AND 6 AM.
HEAVIEST SNOW WILL BE FROM 10 PM TO 4 AM.

* TEMPERATURES...MID 30S LATE THIS AFTERNOON...DROPPING BELOW
FREEZING DURING DURING THE EARLY TO MID EVENING. OVERNIGHT LOWS
IN THE UPPER 20S.

* WINDS...EAST 5 MPH OR LESS.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER STORM WARNING MEANS SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW ARE
EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. THIS WILL MAKE TRAVEL VERY HAZARDOUS OR
IMPOSSIBLE.

&&



Hey TD you never commented on my new blog!!!!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting Floodman:


No, "whimsical" is actually a part of my vocabulary; not a word I use very often, but with whistlepigs and obese priarie dogs today, I would have to say this blog has become somewhat whimsical...

I have to agree here...
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting PcolaDan:


You've been watching HGTV. LOL


No, "whimsical" is actually a part of my vocabulary; not a word I use very often, but with whistlepigs and obese priarie dogs today, I would have to say this blog has become somewhat whimsical...
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting Floodman:
Perhaps I should have said "whimsical"


You've been watching HGTV. LOL
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Quoting drg0dOwnCountry:
Germany run out of street salt.



Many buildings could collapse from the snow weight.


Some parts (islands) are inaccesable.


Is all this north or down in Hessen too?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting tornadodude:


google lol

That's when you're supposed to say what a genius you are. :P
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It looks like HPC is following the SREF average very closely.


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Quoting Jeff9641:


84 in Miami with dewpoints near 70. Plenty of fuel down there. Had very heavy rain in Orlando this morning. Visibility at my work was a 1/2 mile at times.


Been a while since I heard thunder, spring is near.
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here ya go Aim:

Winter Storm Warning

URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON DC
335 PM EST TUE FEB 2 2010

DCZ001-MDZ009-013-VAZ030-031-040-042-050>054-501-502-WVZ053-
030445-
/O.CON.KLWX.WS.W.0005.100202T2100Z-100203T1200Z/
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA-MONTGOMERY-PRINCE GEORGES-WARREN-CLARKE-
RAPPAHANNOCK-LOUDOUN-ORANGE-CULPEPER-
PRINCE WILLIAM/MANASSAS/MANASSAS PARK-FAIRFAX-
ARLINGTON/FALLS CHURCH/ALEXANDRIA-NORTHERN FAUQUIER-
SOUTHERN FAUQUIER-JEFFERSON-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...WASHINGTON...GAITHERSBURG...
FRONT ROYAL...LEESBURG...CULPEPER...MANASSAS...MANASSAS PARK...
FAIRFAX...ALEXANDRIA...FALLS CHURCH...WARRENTON...CHARLES TOWN
335 PM EST TUE FEB 2 2010

...WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 7 AM EST
WEDNESDAY...

A WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 7 AM EST
WEDNESDAY.

* PRECIPITATION TYPE...SNOW.

* ACCUMULATIONS...3 TO 6 INCHES.

* TIMING...DEVELOPING THROUGH 6 PM...ENDING BETWEEN 4 AM AND 6 AM.
HEAVIEST SNOW WILL BE FROM 10 PM TO 4 AM.

* TEMPERATURES...MID 30S LATE THIS AFTERNOON...DROPPING BELOW
FREEZING DURING DURING THE EARLY TO MID EVENING. OVERNIGHT LOWS
IN THE UPPER 20S.

* WINDS...EAST 5 MPH OR LESS.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER STORM WARNING MEANS SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW ARE
EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. THIS WILL MAKE TRAVEL VERY HAZARDOUS OR
IMPOSSIBLE.

&&

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They'll maintain or intensify as they move across. First one should be moving into Western PBC suburbs in about 20 minutes.
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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