Are Groundhog Day results accurate? Phil’s record over the years is revealing
As we approach Groundhog Day on Feb. 2, everyone is eager to know if we can expect spring weather sooner rather than later. Legend has it that if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, we’re in for six more weeks of winter in the U.S. But if he doesn’t, warmer temperatures are imminent.
Since 1887, people have anxiously looked to the famous groundhog annually, but are his predictions accurate? In 2023, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration compared U.S. national temperatures with Phil’s predictions over a period of 10 years. In the past decade, Phil’s forecast has been right about 40% of the time.
Phil has seen his shadow more times than not, predicting a longer winter 84% of the time. Since 1887, he saw his shadow 107 times and did not see it 19 times. He saw a partial shadow once, did not appear once, and there was no prediction recorded 10 times.
The Origin of Groundhog Day
The tradition of Groundhog Day is similar to the origins of the holidays of Halloween and Mayday. These holidays are known as “cross-quarter days,” those that fall halfway between a solstice and equinox. These ancient Celtic holidays celebrated the turning points in seasons. Groundhog Day is a modern interpretation of several other cultures’ holidays that mark the beginning of spring, including the Celtic Imbolc and the French Chandeleur, or Candlemas Day.
As for how a groundhog became involved, Germans believed the weather could be predicted by a badger. When they came to America, the groundhog came to be substituted for the badger.
In 1840, a Welsh-American shopkeeper in Pennsylvania wrote about what sounds like the modern tradition of Groundhog Day, the Library of Congress reports: “Today the Germans say the groundhog comes out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he returns in and remains there 40 days.”
Groundhog Day Celebrations Around the Country
Each year, Phil draws about 20,000 people to the Groundhog Day celebration at Gobbler’s Knob in the Pennsylvania Wilds outside of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This year’s celebration also includes a talent show, a reception for members of the Groundhog Club, a banquet, the Groundhog Ball and more.
While Punxsutawney may have a claim to the most well-known Groundhog Day celebration, you can find similar local events all throughout the United States. And while the furry forecasters around the country may not be any better at predicting the weather than Phil, it’s all about embracing the fun of the holiday.
In New Jersey, groundhog Essex Ed also makes predictions about which team will win the Super Bowl.
“He’s much better at predicting the weather than football, but in his defense, he hibernates through most of the sports season,” Essex County Turtle Back Zoo Director of Guest Services Caitlin Sharp told Accuweather.
No local event in your neck of the woods? If all else fails, you can always watch the 1993 classic film “Groundhog Day.” It stars Bill Murray, a weatherman who gets stuck reliving the celebration in Punxsutawney day after day. (Of note: This movie is unironically included in our list of the most rewatchable comedies of all time.)
Happy Groundhog Day to all who celebrate!