JEFFERSON COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – It’s the time of year when America tunes in to see what the winter outlook will be from Pennsylvania’s famous forecasting groundhog, but how many times has he been right?
Every Feb. 2 since the 1880s, it has been a tradition to wake Meteorologist Hall of Famer Punxsutawney Phil from a stump on Gobbler’s Knob at 7:25 a.m. EST to see his prediction on whether or not winter is almost over. Legend has it that if Phil sees his shadow, then there will be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, there will be an early spring. (Obviously, the actual end date of winter doesn’t change, Phil’s just predicting when warmer weather will arrive.)
According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil’s predictions have never been wrong. However, the Stormfax Almanac as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) gave Phil a 39 percent success rate all time and a 40 percent success rate in the past 10 years.
Between 1887 and 2022, Phil has seen his shadow 107 times and didn’t see his shadow 20 times, according to records kept by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club and the Stormfax Almanac. (Note, there are 10 years of missing prediction records from the 1800s.)
Phil’s less-than-perfect predictions were rated by comparing them to U.S. national temperatures, according to NOAA.
Despite this, Phil has proven himself a devoted prognosticator year after year and is a true icon in the world of weather forecasting. For these reasons and many more, Phil was inducted into the 2023 Meteorologist Hall of Fame by The Weather Discovery Center.
In Phil’s defense, predicting springtime for the entire country is a bit of a difficult task. There are varied regional climates, and seasons change at different times of the year nationally.
Other groundhogs in the area include French Creek Freddie of West Virginia, and Buckeye Chuck of Ohio. These weather rodents have been slightly better predictions over the last few years.
Freddie saw his shadow in 2022, 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016 over the past 11 years giving him a 55% accuracy in recent memory.
Buckeye Chuck saw his shadow in 2018, 2017, and 2016 over the past 11 years. This also leaves Chuck with 55% accuracy in recent memory.
The Climate Prediction Center predicts warmer than normal temperatures for February – April this year. In other words the humans are calling for early spring.
For more information on Pennsylvania’s furry forecaster, visit groundhog.org.
Click for more information on other weather groundhogs around the world.