Groundhog Day: But What Does It Mean?

9pm Tuesday…

It’s that time of the year…Groundhog Day comes around each February 2nd and the media LOVES to see what the furry little rodent says in Pennsylvania.  The practice goes way back to Europe.  Here are two proverbs from England and Germany:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

The badger peeps out of his hole on Candlemas Day and if he finds snow he walks abroad,
but if he sees the sun he draws back in his hole.

By the way, Candlemas Day (on or around February 2nd) is the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox; 40 days after Christmas.  In the past it was sometimes considered the beginning of spring.  That seems a bit early.  But I have a feeling that was for daylight; it’s definitely the beginning of spring with respect to light.  The ancient Imbolc festival is similar, celebrating that midpoint.  You can read about these in GREAT detail on their Wikipedia pages.
But we have our own prognosticator here in Portland.  He’s called BMAC.


Of course that’s Brian MacMillan’s shadow this morning (looks like Slender Man?).  Seems pretty clear cut to me; he sees his shadow and that means 6 more weeks of winter.  If the last 3 weeks were “winter”, that’s fine with me.  The last 20 days of January were very mild.

But wait a minute!  Velda the hedgehog at the Oregon Zoo didn’t see her shadow, according to the folks there.  So I smell a conspiracy once again.  Who can forget the fiasco back in 2012???  I have a feeling that the (very nice) marketing folks at the zoo would prefer that each February be labelled an “early spring”.  “Come on out and visit us!

Or am I just a bitter old weather guy?  Take a look at the pic today:


Hmmm, sure looks like a shadow on the keeper’s collar!  Now in the case of this year we can probably give them a bit of a break; take a look at the 10am satellite image:


Half of the metro area was totally sunny (east side) and areas west of I-5 were mainly cloudy.  So according to the proverbs I get this forecast for the next 6 weeks:


Good news, the western metro area is headed into spring.  But for those of you on the east side…winter continues.


Wow, we’re going to have some tough daily forecasts aren’t we in the weeks ahead?

That was fun, but…


No sign of winter in the next 10-14 days (through mid-February) since we’ll be mild and wet or mild and dry.  Snow levels will be mainly at/above 4,000′ over the next two weeks.  Models are all in excellent agreement on a short-lived (a week or less) very strong upper-level ridge Sunday-Wednesday next week along the West Coast.  500mb map from the GFS Monday AM:


That’s the kind of ridge that gives us 90 degrees in May, or 70-75 degrees in March.  In mid-late February that’s a 65 degree day maker.  However, it’s still early February and strong easterly wind through the Gorge Monday-Wednesday will likely keep us below 60-62 degrees in the metro area.  That said, it’s a real tough call on February 8th-10th.  IF we break the inversion even a little, we’ve got some 60-65 degree days coming up early next week.  That’s FALSE SPRING weather.

For sure the Coast, Cascades, and Cascade foothills are going to be very warm next week.  Central Oregon too.  We will also see lots of sunshine Sunday through Wednesday in all areas with the dry offshore flow.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

12 Responses to Groundhog Day: But What Does It Mean?

  1. Boydo3 N. Albany says:

    Groundfog day….I fear we here will see more fog than sun in the mid to south Willamette Valley. Hope I’m wrong.

  2. WEATHERDAN says:

    Great post Mark. Halloween, Easter, and Christmas also have pagan roots as well before they were Christianized. 1500 years ago Germanic tribes decorated evergreen trees with the heads of their defeated enemies. Pretty gross actually. The weather on the other hand is looking up. Next week looks great. Enjoy, peace.

  3. W7ENK says:

    I think you’re right, Mark. The Oregon Zoo just wants to draw the crowds in, so it behooves them to push the idea of an “early Spring.” I hadn’t thought of that before, but it makes total sense.

  4. Thanks for the historical information on Groundhog Day, Mark! I knew there was a pagan connection (i.e. Imbolc) there. Anyway, I hope that sunshine next week reaches up to my area. I don’t expect 60-65F temperatures, though.

  5. It’s looking more and more like it will soon be time for the fork graphics.

  6. schmit44 says:

    2/2/2016 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:53 at CW5925 Coos Bay( 49 ft) & LINCON Lincoln C(187 ft)
    Low: 43 at Port Orford(0 ft)

    High:18 at HOWARD Mt Howard(8150 ft)
    Low: -11 at CRANE PRAIRIE (5500 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 46 degrees
    CRANE PRAIRIE (35/-11 ) (5500 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    0.84″ at YACHTS Yachats(72ft)
    0.75″ at LOG CREEK(2800ft)
    0.50″ at SADDLE MOUNTAIN(3110ft)
    0.40″ at BANDON(79ft)
    0.37″ at YELLOWSTONE MTN.(3080ft)
    0.36″ at EW1814 Florence(98ft)
    0.35″ at EW3638 Yachats(33ft)
    0.33″ at WALDPT Waldport(43ft)
    0.33″ at HEBOWX Mt. Hebo(3160ft)

  7. Given the way that Punxatawny Phil is treated every year, with the TV lights and all, I’m surprised the poor groundhog can see at all.

  8. Wow…excellent history of Groundhog Day and a comparison to what we can expect coming up, in this season of marginal sun angle. Awesome post Mark!

  9. GTS1K' says:

    Lots of sunshine works for me

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