|The Flip of a Groundhog
by Stormy on February 02, 2021
What are the odds?
Punxsutawney Phil has been frequently maligned for the accuracy of his forecast. As of 2020 he is batting a solid 36% accuracy in his prognostications. Now in baseball a hitter with a .360 would be considered pretty good, but with numbers like this when it comes to predicting weather, you’d be better off just flipping a coin. Odds are you’d get half your predictions on target.
I watched Phil make a groggy prediction this morning in a snowstorm. In the middle of a nor’easter, with snow falling, he somehow managed to see his shadow. Perhaps it was all the flashes from the media coverage he receives that confused Phil into thinking he’s out in the sun. Phil’s getting old.
As a society we tend to make fun of weathermen. How often have you heard that being a weatherman is the only profession where you get paid to be wrong? We remember them being wrong all the time. This is a cognitive bias. We tend to remember things better when our expectations turned out to be wrong. Say the forecast was sunny and you went to a picnic and it was a beautiful day. You don’t think about the weather. You enjoyed the picnic. But if it rains on you, there are some choice words you have for your weatherman. How dare they! Your day was ruined. That’s a memory that sticks out.
In reality statistics show that a seven day forecast tends to be 80% accurate and the closer you get, the better those odds. The forecast for the next couple of days tends to be 90% on target.
And then there’s Phil. My myopic cousin has gone from looking for his shadow to randomly picking one of two pre-scripted scrolls. While untraditional, I have to say that a coin flip to predict the weather would probably be a better process from him. Pulling your stats from 36% to 50% is an improvement any day!
Good luck, Phil!
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