LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Happy Groundhog Day! Today is a day that Americans await a forecast prediction from an animal rather than a meteorologist. The old folklore says that if the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. Meanwhile, if there is no shadow, there will be an early spring.
When the sun came up this morning in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, temperatures were below freezing with snow falling. The famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil was slow to come out of his warm burrow. When he was placed on his platform, he did not see his shadow, predicting an early spring.
Punxsutawney Phil is not very accurate when it comes to his predictions. Since the late 1800’s, the groundhogs have seen their shadows 104 times and not seen it only 19 times… According to the national temperature almanac, the groundhog has only been correct 39% of the time! Luckily, we have meteorologists who are much more accurate than that!
Last year, Punxutawney Phil did not see his shadow, predicting an early spring. February 2019 ended up starting off warm before a cold spike started mid-late month lasting through much of March. It was definitely not an early spring for Arkansas.
How does Phil’s forecast prediction today shape up to what our meteorologists think?
So far, we’ve had a pretty mild winter. Historically, most of the cold air that arrives in Arkansas is here by January and February. On February 1, the high temperature in Little Rock was 58 degrees – about 6 degrees warmer than normal. Today will be almost 20 degrees warmer than normal with highs reaching the upper 60’s and low 70’s across the state under a sunny sky. The next few days will feature temperatures above normal, mostly in the 60’s before a cold front drops us to the 40’s and 50’s Wednesday through Friday.
In central Arkansas this winter, the only real cold days we’ve had so far have come from cold fronts moving all the way through with a deep surge of cold air following behind. We have had many fronts come through, but they have been limited with a connection to the arctic air. For that reason, the cold air hasn’t hung around for long. We’ve also had a lot of low pressure systems or even high pressure systems developing in the southwestern United States that have had a more southerly track across the mid-west, mid-south and southeast, providing us with more southerly air flow and warmth/moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center issues weekly and monthly forecasts. The monthly outlook for February shows above average temperatures through much of central and southern Arkansas. The average high temperature in Little Rock is 55 degrees in February.
As far as rainfall goes, there is an equal chance for either above or below average rainfall for the month of February for central Arkansas. The average rainfall in Little Rock for the month of February is 3.66 inches.
Based on the latest model outlooks, climate prediction and trends we’ve already seen this winter, our meteorologists agree with Punxatawney Phil – an early spring is likely for Arkansans, especially central Arkansas.
The official first day of Spring is March 19, 2020.