According to folklore, no shadow for Phil means “there will be an early spring.” Had Phil seen his shadow, it would have meant six more weeks of winter.
Since the Groundhog’s first prediction in 1887 (through 2012), Phil has seen his shadow 100 times and not seen it on just 16 occasions. There are nine missing years in the record, but Phil has issued a forecast without exception.
His unimpeachable reliability notwithstanding, Phil’s accuracy is the subject of debate.
The official website of Punxsutawney Phil claims he has “of course” issued a correct forecast 100 percent of the time. But NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center says Phil’s forecasts have shown “no predictive skill” in recent years. AccuWeather finds the furry rodent has an 80 percent accuracy rate.
Infographic: All There is to Know About Phil (AccuWeather)
Looking ahead to the next 6 weeks, AccuWeather isn’t quite in concert with Phil’s spring-like forecast, especially for the Northeast and Northwest U.S. where it expects a chilly, stormy pattern.
“A couple of winter storms may impact the Northeast during February and March,” AccuWeather writes in its spring outlook. “The potential exists for snow along the I-95 corridor from Washington, D.C., to New York City and Boston.”
But NOAA’s long-range outlooks are in better agreement. Its February outlook calls for warmer-than-normal temperatures over a larger fraction of the country, compared to cold. The same holds true for the three-month period covering February through April.
NOAA says Groundhog Day originated as an ancient celebration of the mid-point between the winter solstice and spring equinox.
“Superstition has it that fair weather [at this midpoint] was seen as forbearance of a stormy and cold second half to winter,” NOAA writes in its summary of Groundhog Day background and folklore.
Groundhog Day-like celebrations are held in several other regions of North America where other furry rodents make their predictions, including:
* Atlanta, Georgia: General Beau Lee
* Ontario, Canada: Wiarton Willie
* Raleigh, North Carolina: Sir Walter Wally
* Sun Prarie, Wisconsin: Jimmy
* Staten Island, New York: Chuck
* Birmingham, Alabama: Birmingham Bill
Washington, D.C. began a Groundhog Day celebration last year with “Potomac Phil” - a taxidermied groundhog - being held again Saturday.