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Groundhog Day

Andrew Freedman @ 3:30 PM

To me, Groundhog day is a sad day for the meteorological community. After a century of staggering progress in weather forecasting, people still put stock in a morbidly obese groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil.

When Phil waddled out of his cage in the frigid Pennsylvania dawn yesterday and saw his shadow, the crowd of groundhog revelers actually booed him. Let me repeat that: Thousands of people booed a groundhog because its shadow was visible. The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette wrote an editorial today criticizing the crowds behavior, stating: Thats no way to treat a brave, non-pandering groundhog. I doubt the paper defends National Weather Service forecasters the same way.

Maybe we should start booing the various computer models we use to forecast the weather every time they come up with a solution we dont like. Take that GFS! Damn you AVN! I'll get you yet NOGAPS! Or perhaps we should indulge the popular appetite for marmot forecasting by setting up a national groundhog prediction system (NGPS)? It would save us money, provide a boost to the groundhog food industry hit hard by the Iraq war, and might make people finally appreciate human weather forecasters they had previously derided for being unreliable. TV stations could name their groundhogs like they do their Doppler Radars. We now turn to our Groundhog 9000 Forecast...

Id like to see Phil try his paw at forecasting the rain/snow line. Will it be inside or outside the Beltway? Whats that? No shadow? Whats that boy? Jimmy is trapped in a well?

Maybe people prefer Phil because he gives a simpler forecast than most humans. For example, NOAAs Climate Prediction Center is predicting equal chances of above or below normal temperatures and precipitation for February. To me, that's as good as saying that we have no idea what is going to happen, and if that is the case, let us give Phil a chance. At least he is cuddly.

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