Phil the groundhog is not a weatherman
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Every year on Feb. 2, thousands of people gather in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to witness the emerging of Phil the famous groundhog.
The old and accepted saying is that if the furry rodent crawls out of its den and see its shadow, then six more weeks of winter will ensue. If Phil doesn’t see his shadow however, then spring is coming.
When Punxsutawney Phil appeared in the public eye this year, he indeed saw his shadow and has determined that Americans will experience six more weeks of winter.
However, throughout the decades, people have questioned Phil’s accuracy in predicting the seasons. Turns out, the groundhog isn’t the best at doing his given job.
When Phil’s annual sightings are matched with actual weather statistics since 1887, Phil’s seasonal forecasting has only been correct 39 percent of of the time. Even if you decide to flip a coin to determine when spring will arrive, you would still get a higher chance of a correct prediction than Phil.
Although Phil cannot be passed as a climatologist, he has been deeply engraved in American culture.
This folklore has been in existence since the 18th and 19th century, originating as a tradition in southeastern and central Pennsylvania. When German settlers first arrived in the New World in the 1700s, they also carried a long standing pagan tradition of Candlemas day with them.
Candlemas Day, takes place in between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Superstition held that if on the day midpoint of spring and winter, the weather was sunny and the second half of Winter would remain cold.
As for the special groundhog that receives the honor of predicting the season, he practically comes from royalty. Punxsutawney Phil Sowerby is the name of a succession of groundhogs. He even has a wife named Phyllis and a daughter named Phelicia.
Although with no consistent weather correlation, Phil’s sighting of his shadow is not random. The Inner Circle, which is the group of people that takes care of Phil throughout the year, actually decides whether or not he will see his shadow several days before Groundhog Day. This is obvious due to Phil’s visible shadow on days of severe weather.
In conclusion, you shouldn’t store away your winter clothes or expect a longer winter solely based on the fact that a groundhog has seen his shadow. It is important to pay attention to the local news or weather predictions by science professionals for an accurate estimate.