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Wiarton Willie predicts an early spring on Groundhog Day

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Wiarton Willie made his spring prediction Thursday morning at 8:07 a.m., and winter may be ending sooner rather than later.

The groundhog did not see his shadow, meaning we could get an early spring.

The annual tradition returned in-person in 2023 and was the first big event for this new Wiarton Willie. The previous prognosticator died in 2020 from a tooth abscess.

This year's in-person event was welcome news to the community of Wiarton which saw a big crowd show up for the Feb. 2 predication.

“It’s been nice to see everybody back,” said Laura Lisk, the chair of Wiarton’s Chamber of Commerce. “People we haven’t seen in a couple of years, for the businesses in town."

“It’s not just tourists that come up,” said Danielle Edwards, the organizer of the South Bruce Peninsula’s Wiarton Willie Festival and Manager of Economic Development. “It’s a homecoming for the community. It’s just a fantastic event, and we’re just thrilled to have it back, live in person, again.”

The festival continues through to the weekend with family events like skating, foosball and axe throwing.

As far as predictions go, Wiarton Willie was alone in calling for an early spring. Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam saw her shadow this morning at a wildlife park north of Halifax, suggesting six more weeks of winter.

EARLY SPRING EXPLANATION

So what’s considered an early spring?

Meteorological spring in the Northern Hemisphere includes March, April and May. However the first day of spring, or spring equinox, is typically closer to the end of March. In 2023 it starts on March 20.

Warmer, or above average temperatures, for the months of March, April and May would indicate an early spring.

WILLIE’S PAST PREDICTIONS

Here are Wiarton Willie’s predictions between 2013 and 2022, compared to mean temperature reported by Environment Canada. All temperatures are in degrees Celsius.

2022

Prediction: Early Spring (new Wiarton Willie)

Average temperatures:

  • March: 0.4 (below average)
  • April: 5.3 (above average)
  • May: 13.8 (above average)

Summary: March had a mix of both warm and cool days, while April and May were above seasonal.

Accuracy: Correct

2021

Prediction: Early Spring (new Wiarton Willie)

Average temperatures:

  • March: 2.2 (above average)
  • April: 7.0 (above average)
  • May: 11.6 (above average)

Summary: Spring arrived in March and by May we were seeing summer-like temperatures in the 20s and 30s.

Accuracy: Correct

2020

Prediction: Early Spring

Average temperatures:

  • March: 1.9 (above average)
  • April: 4.7 (below average)
  • May: 11 (below average)

Summary: March was warmer than usual, but winter stuck around a little longer into April and May.

Accuracy: Wrong

2019

Prediction: Early Spring

Average temperatures:

  • March: -2.5 (below average)
  • April: 5.1 (below average)
  • May: 11.3 (below average)

Summary: All three months were below average.

Accuracy: Wrong

2018

Prediction: Late Spring

Average temperatures:

  • March: -1.1 (below average)
  • April: 2.2 (below average)
  • May: 16 (above average)

Summary: Temperatures were below average into April, but May was above seasonal.

Accuracy: Correct

2017

Prediction: Early Spring

Average temperatures:

  • March: -1.3 (below average)
  • April: 8.6 (above average)
  • May: 11.2 (below average)

Summary: March and April were close to seasonal, and May was just two degrees above the average temperature for this time of year.

Accuracy: Draw

2016

Prediction: Late Spring

Average temperatures:

  • March: 2.1 (above average)
  • April: 3.6 (below average)
  • May: 13 (above average)

Summary: March was a bit warmer than normal, but then frosty weather returned in April before temperatures bounced back in may.

Accuracy: Wrong

2015

Prediction: Early Spring

Average temperatures:

  • March: -3.5 (below average)
  • April: 6 (below average)
  • May: 15.2 (above average)

Summary: March was below seasonal, with April just 0.2 degrees below the average. Things turned around in May with warmer than usual weather.

Accuracy: Draw

2014

Prediction: Late Spring

Average temperatures:

  • March: -6.4 (below average)
  • April: 4.6 (below average)
  • May: 12.8 (above average)

Summary: March was five degrees colder than average, followed by a chilly April. May just squeaked by with above seasonal temperatures.

Accuracy: Correct

2013

Prediction: Early Spring

Average temperatures:

  • March: -1.7 (below average)
  • April: 5.3 (below average)
  • May: 13.7 (above average)

Summary: Each month was within 1.2 degrees of the average.

Accuracy: Wrong

VERDICT

Over the last 10 years, Wiarton Willie was correct four times and wrong four times. It was too close to call in 2015 and 2017.

That gives the groundhog a 50 per cent average when it comes it predicting an early spring or longer winter.

WHAT THE FORECASTERS PREDICT

Though Wiarton Willie has made his prediction, the weather forecasters also have some idea what lies ahead.

CTV Kitchener’s Will Aiello said southwestern Ontario is starting off February with the coldest temperatures we’ve seen all season, which is good news for anyone wanting to get out their skis, snowboards or skates.

Towards the middle of the month, Will said we’ll see temperatures return to seasonal and even above seasonal. That could mean the potential of rain in certain areas of southwestern Ontario.

Day time seasonal highs could be the overnight lows in some cases.

Environment Canada is also weighing in on the spring forecast, predicting average temperatures over the next three months in southern Ontario.

So will we get an early spring? Only time will tell.

— With files from CTV News London’s Scott Miller

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