An alternative way to forecast the weather

Punxsutawney Phil has been predicting the onset of spring for years, but is he any good?
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2013 11:02
Phil makes an appearance during the Groundhog Day celebration at Gobblers Knob, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania [EPA]

The groundhog has spoken.

Punxsutawney Phil, the most famous groundhog in the world, has predicted that spring will come early to North America.

Every year Phil is woken from his sleep on February 2, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to make his forecast.

According to folklore, if our furry little friend sees his shadow, then winter will continue for another six weeks, but if he doesn’t see his shadow then the seasons are shifting and there will be an early start to spring.

This year the groundhog is said to have seen his shadow, indicating that spring was just around the corner.

The spectacle started as a German tradition, in which farmers monitored the animal’s behaviour to decide when to plant their crops. Now, it seems to be more spectacle than substance, but since the Bill Murray film ‘Groundhog Day’, interest in the event has exploded.

This year thousands braved the cold to hear the rodent’s predictions.

Despite claims by his handlers that Punxsutawney Phil is “100% accurate”, it seems that the little rodent isn’t quite as psychic as he might be. He only has a success rate of 39%. To be honest, you’d be better off tossing a coin.

It seems Phil may be struggling to make this year’s prediction come true as well. Certainly over the next few days winter weather will be gripping the northeastern parts of the USA.

Phil isn’t the only fortune-telling groundhog. Many other cities in the USA have their own little rodents. This year the New York version, Staten Island Chuck, agreed with Phil in predicting an early end to winter.

City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, petted the furry creature in appreciation for his forecast. A risky move; in 2009 Chuck bit the hand of mayor, Michael Bloomberg. It seems the little furry forecasters are somewhat temperamental.


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