humor, weather

What’s Wrong With Groundhog Day, The Movie? (H. Michael Mogil, CCM, CBM, NWA-DS*)

How many of you have seen “Groundhog Day – The Movie?” How many of you have seen it over and over again? How many of you have picked up on the myriad of meteorological and other flaws that the movie contains?

Well, my wife and I have been viewing the iconic movie for some 25 years (it was released February 12, 1993 – Fig. 01). Bill Murray (a hapless TV meteorologist), Andie McDowell (his producer) and Scooter (the groundhog) really do make some movie magic. After all, if they didn’t, why would the movie remain an annual staple?

While watching this year, however, my wife’s eagle eye flagged some potential errors in the movie, errors neither one of us had picked up on, before. Most of these were minor and could possibly be explained away by Hollywood movie-making techniques. For example, Gobbler’s Knob is not IN downtown Punxsutawney, but rather, several miles OUTSIDE. Also, the movie was filmed in Indiana because the town there was more scenic than Punxsutawney, PA. The most glaring error, however, always started the ever-repeating Groundhog Day.

As the clock radio changed to 6:00 o’clock a.m. E.S.T., and the cheerful voices of Sony and Cher graced the airways, Phil Connor awoke and raced to the window. Every day, he saw the same people walking the street below, enroute to Gobbler’s Knob. Then, after dressing, grabbing some food, meeting an incessant insurance agent (the infamous Ned Ryerson), and arriving at Gobbler’s Knob, Phil and the news team got ready to see Phil’s emergence from his “burrow.” Alas, all of the above is done in FULL DAYLIGHT. That means that sun had to rise sometime before 6:00 a.m. E.S.T. Yet, according to timeanddate.com, sunrise in Punxsutawney is at 7:25 a.m. E.S.T., with Civil Twilight beginning at 6:56 a.m. E.S.T. In short, the movie is inaccurate, but with cause. All the early morning scenes, if played in the dark, would have lost their visual effects.

This won’t be the first time that Hollywood got its science wrong. And it won’t be the last, either.

Reporting from his home away from Punxsutawney, this is H. Michael Mogil, a meteorologist with a much higher skill level than the Pennsylvania marmot and his brethren.

© 2018 H. Michael Mogil

Originally posted 2/5/18

* The National Weather Association Digital Seal (NWA-DS) is awarded to individuals who pass stringent meteorological testing and evaluation of written weather content. H. Michael Mogil was awarded the second such seal and is a strong advocate for its use by weather bloggers.

climate, humor, weather

Southwest Florida winter to continue (H. Michael Mogil, CCM, CBM, NWA-DS*)

BULLETIN: Four Naples groundhogs spied their shadows early Thursday morning. Hence, look for six more weeks of south Florida winter. Yahoo!

Punxsutawney Phil does not have a sterling record of furcasting the weather for the last six weeks of winter, even though the official Punxsutawney web site says otherwise. I know because an intern and I analyzed about 100 years of Phil’s forecasts in the late 1990’s. During our research, we discovered that, at best, Phil was accurate only about 10 percent of the time. Phil just kept getting it wrong…and getting it wrong…and getting it wrong, much like Bill Murray did in the movie, Groundhog Day.

Phil’s forecast accuracy is far below chance and offers stark testimony to the inability of the Groundhog legend to really offer any hint about upcoming weather. Still, the legend is fun and offers a great escape for mid-winter blues. And even with a spate of Johnny-come-lately Marmota Monax’s (Phil has many ancestors and bretheren), groundhog weather prediction simply doesn’t cut it.

One reason these groundhogs keep getting it wrong is because of media coverage. No, the furry critters aren’t creating fake news. Rather, as Al Roker noted on the Today Show, Thursday morning, there are simply too many camera lights. Hence, the only forecast possible is ongoing winter. Not surprisingly, even with cloudy skies (Fig. 1), Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Thursday (Fig. 2). I didn’t even bother to see what the other nationally known groundhogs predicted. I knew the answer.

Instead, my focus was on four Naples groundhogs. Okay, so they are Ty babies™. They are still groundhogs! And I can report, unequivocally, that no camera lights were at play. It was pure sunshine that allowed these marmots to see their shadows (Fig. 3).

While folks in northern climes are dreading six more weeks of winter, we in Naples are thrilled about winter’s continuance. The reason is that in southwest Florida, winter means lovely weather. Average daily climatological temperatures start in the mid-60’s in early February and only rise into the lower 70’s by the end of March. The daily range spans about ten degrees above and below these values. In short, it’s almost like late Spring in northern states. With minimal rainfall chances, it’s the weather southwest Floridians crave.

The only drawback to the lovely weather is that southwest Florida could use a few days of steady rainfall. Southwest Florida and much of the Florida peninsula, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center, has been (and is expected to continue to be) abnormally dry.

Wherever you may live, and whatever the weather brings, please, enjoy. Summer heat and humidity, for most of us, are just over the distant horizon.

© 2017 H. Michael Mogil

Originally posted 2/4/17

* The National Weather Association Digital Seal (NWA-DS) is awarded to individuals who pass stringent meteorological testing and evaluation of written weather content. H. Michael Mogil was awarded the second such seal and is a strong advocate for its use by weather bloggers.