Each year on Feb. 2, America turns its attention to a town called Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to find out when winter will be over. The answer is determined by a group of top-hatted men, who consult a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil, dubbed the “seer of seers”. If on the morning of Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his burrow and sees his shadow, superstition claims that there will be six more weeks of winter, if he does not see his shadow, spring is soon to come. As silly as it all may sound, the ceremonial tradition goes back to 1886, and has maintained an enduring cultural legacy.
Here’s how the Groundhog Day 2019 results went down:
So did the groundhog see his shadow?
If you were hoping for an early spring, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this morning, meaning that spring is on its way.
The news came in at around 7:30 this morning, when the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club aroused the prognosticating groundhog from his slumber inside the ceremonial hovel on Gobbler’s Knob.
Regardless of this year’s prediction, it may be worth noting that despite his reputation Punxsutawney Phil does not have the strongest track record for accurately predicting the weather.
How accurate has the groundhog been?
Due to the fact that annual weather trends can vary across the U.S. each year, there are discrepancies between sources regarding Punxsutawney Phil’s accuracy. according to Stormfax Almanac, Punxsutawney Phil boasts only a 39% success rate, whereas Accuweather puts it at around 80%. Since the first reported Groundhog Day results in 1886, Phil has predicted long winters 104 times and an early spring only 18 times (nine years went without records). And while Punxsutawney Phil is the most famous weather-predicting groundhog, he is not the only one. TIME tested the accuracy of various groundhogs based on their ability to predict the weather of their relative geographic area. Using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Punxsutawney Phil is only 3% accurate in predicting his local weather trends. Meanwhile, Sir Walter Wally of Raleigh, N.C. is 68% accurate, and Unadilla Bill of Unadilla Neb. is even better, claiming an impressive 83% accuracy rate.
Why is Groundhog Day a thing?
Groundhog Day has its roots in an early Christian celebration known as Candlemas Day, which marked the point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. On that day, superstition held that if it were sunny and clear, a long winter was expected. Alternately, a cloudy day meant an early spring.
According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club traces the introduction of the animal to Germany, where people initially using hedgehogs as the hibernating mammal of choice. When German settlers arrived in the United States, they brought the tradition with them, swapping hedgehogs for groundhogs.
1886 was the first recorded year that Groundhog Day was celebrated in Punxsutawney, according to the local newspaper. Since then, the quirky tradition has ballooned into a multi-day spectacle for the town. Some of the events listed on the schedule include chain saw carving demos, a screening of the film Groundhog Day, the ‘Gobbler’s Knob Got Talent’ talent show and the Groundhog Ball, to name a few.
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