The handlers of Pennsylvania's most famous groundhog predicted on Feb. 2 that we'll have early springlike weather. Punxsutawney Phil's inner circle revealed their forecast at sunrise. (Pennsylvania Tourism Commission)

Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most famous furry forecaster, failed to see his shadow Tuesday morning, meaning spring is right around the corner, or so the folklore says.

The groundhog’s prediction came about 7:25 a.m. in Punxsutawney, Pa., with fair skies and temperatures in the mid-20s.

If this winter’s days truly are numbered, it will be remembered for both its mildness and brevity. Since December, most of the Lower 48 have experienced above-normal temperatures — the Blizzard of 2016 on Jan. 22-24, also known as Snowzilla, notwithstanding.


Temperature difference from normal during January and February. (High Plains Regional Climate Center)

But before packing away your winter coats, consider the last time the rodent called for an early spring in 2013, punishing cold and snow gripped the eastern United States deep into March. The prosecuting attorney in Butler County, Ohio, went so far as to seek the death penalty for Phil for “misrepresentation of early spring.” But then a Pennsylvania law firm came to Phil’s defense, claiming the Ohio attorney had no jurisdiction to prosecute the groundhog.

Sources have long presented conflicting information on the groundhog’s accuracy.

Phil’s official website claims he has “of course” issued a correct forecast 100 percent of the time. But NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information notes that Phil’s forecasts have shown “no predictive skill” in recent years.

AccuWeather finds the rodent has an 80 percent accuracy rate. But the StormFax Almanac reports that Phil has been right a lowly 39 percent of the time.

Since his first prediction in 1887, Phil has seen his shadow 102 times and not seen it on just 18 occasions, including this year. Nine years are missing from the record, but Phil has issued a forecast without exception.

NOAA says Groundhog Day originated as a celebration of the midpoint 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 regions of North America where other beloved rodents make their predictions, including:

More from the Capital Weather Gang:

This well-equipped Snowzilla igloo had three rooms, skylights and a sound system

Photos: The most artistic and magical scenes from Snowzilla

The most ridiculous and awesome things we saw during Snowzilla

Northerners: Washingtonians aren’t winter weather wimps, we’re just uniquely vulnerable

The Blizzard of 2016 from space compared to other great Northeast snowstorms

The forecast for Snowzilla was stellar in almost every way

Snowzilla was easy to predict. Here’s why that’s not normal.