Friday, February 2nd is Groundhog Day and some of us will be waiting to see if Punxsutawney Phil saw a shadow or not! Punxsutawney Phil and other groundhogs have been predicting the arrival of Spring for many years and has intrigued us all.

NASA Education Specialist Dr. Anne Weiss
NASA Education Specialist
Dr. Anne Weiss

NASA Education specialist at NASA Langley Research Center, Dr. Anne Weiss, was gathering cloud and temperature data while visiting her nephews (3rd, 5th, and 8th grade) when they got talking about Punxsutawney Phil. Her nephews were questioning if Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast would affect ‘Aunt Anne’ since she lives in Virginia.


This conversation started a research question, does Punxsutawney Phil see the same clouds as Aunt Anne around the time of year Phil makes his forecasts. The team came up with the following research question and hypothesis:

  • Research Question: Is there a relationship between latitude and cloud cover?

  • Hypothesis: There is a relationship between latitude and cloud cover.

They went into the GLOBE  and used the GLOBE Visualization Tool to collect data on percentage cloud cover in Punxsutawney, PA and compared it with a town in Virginia with comparable longitude.

Punxsutawney, PA: 40.94 degrees N, 78.97 degrees W

Waynesboro, VA: 38.07 degrees N, 78.89 degrees W


Their results:

The students saw a possible relationship (i.e., Punxsutawney Phil might see different clouds than ‘Aunt Anne’), but also saw that if you remove that one point on the top right, it would change the graph. Students also noticed that they would need more data.

I love this idea so much because it starts with an event that everyone will be talking about. It also get students developing their own questions and looking at data. So, I hope you go outside and take cloud observations at your location and compare it to Punxsutawney Phil or any other groundhog that will be making a forecast this Friday!


Share what you come up with and be sure to check out all past NASA GLOBE Cloud News posts. 


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