North Americans tired of snow and storms may need to be even more patient this year with Punxsutawney Phil – the prognosticating Pennsylvania groundhog – saying "don't put away those coats and mittens just yet, America," as the world's furriest weather forecaster doesn't expect things to change for the next six weeks.
The nation’s most popular marmot saw his shadow early on Wednesday after scurrying out of a burrow at Gobbler’s Knob in the north-western Pennsylvanian town of Punxsutawney. As the legend goes, that means the country can expect below-average temperatures for the next six weeks.
After the pandemic limited crowds last year, tens of thousands of people gathered to watch the ceremony, hosted by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.
Last year, Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter by seeing his shadow. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Phil was somewhat right – the contiguous United States did see below average temperatures in February, but experienced above average temperatures in March.
Unfortunately, Phil hasn’t been all that accurate over the years.
Since 1887, Phil and his predecessors have predicted more winter 104 times and called for 20 early springs, according to Stormfax Almanac – no records exist for nine years. Live Science did an analysis of the data and concluded Phil’s six-week predictions have been correct just 39% of the time.
During the last 10 years, Phil has been accurate 40% of the time, according to NOAA, nailing his prediction in 2020, 2016, 2014 and 2013.
While Phil gets the bulk of the attention each year, New York media outlets continue to push a competing forecast from their homegrown rival, Staten Island Chuck.
Chuck, who also goes by Charles G. Hogg, resides at the Staten Island Zoo. He and his predecessors have been making weather predictions since 1981, and he differed from Phil last year by forecasting an early spring.
While Chuck doesn’t get near the acclaim, he’s had to deal with more harrowing conditions than his Pennsylvania counterpart. In 2009, Chuck bit then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and was secretly replaced by his granddaughter, Charlotte, for the 2014 ceremony. Unfortunately, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped Charlotte on the ground, and the groundhog died several days later.
Here’s hoping New York City’s new mayor, Eric Adams, will have a better working relationship with the buck-toothed prognosticator.
Chuck and Phil have disagreed on the forecast seven times since 2008, and during that run, the Staten Island rodent was only wrong twice, according to the Staten Island Advance. In fact, since 1981, Chuck had an accuracy rate of 80%. Just don’t tell Phil.
Residents in Middlesex County, New Jersey, were left without a groundhog to guide them this winter after Milltown Mel, a lesser-known weather-predicting marmot, died on Sunday.
The news was announced by the Milltown Wranglers, who noted Mel’s untimely death left them with no fill-in options.
"Considering the average lifespan of a groundhog is about three years, that is not such a shock, but Mel left us at a tough time of year, when most of his fellow groundhogs are hibernating, so no babies will be available to replace him until this spring,” the group wrote on Facebook.
Last year was Mel’s sixth weather prediction, and like Staten Island Chuck he correctly predicted an early spring. Mel’s predecessor, who was purchased by former councilman and funeral home owner Jerry Guthlein from a breeder in Pennsylvania after spending a Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, died in August 2015 after making "a handful” of weather forecasts.
According to the Pennsylvania Tourism Office, Romans took the early Christian holiday Candlemas to Germany, where it was said that if there was enough sun on Candlemas Day for a badger to cast a shadow, there would be six more weeks of bad weather.
German immigrants brought this tradition to Pennsylvania, and in 1886 the editor of Punxsutawney’s newspaper teamed up with a group of groundhog hunters to begin the legend of Punxsutawney Phil’s weather prowess. So, in the United States and Canada, we mark Groundhog Day on the same date Christians across the globe celebrate Candlemas.