Groundhog Day: Punxsutawney Phil is terrible at weather predictions

It’s Groundhog Day! The odd little annual tradition where Americans and Canadians look to a furry little woodchuck to predict the weather.

While there’s no real harm in our silly Groundhog Day tradition (unless of course it’s the year 2014 and you’re Staten Island Chuck meeting(Opens in a new window) then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio), it’s astonishing just how wrong the day’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, has been in his predictions over the years.

According to the Stormfax Weather Almanac(Opens in a new window), which tracks Phil’s predictions, the groundhog has only been right 39 percent of the time over the past 136 years. 39 percent. That’s abysmal! This is your god, western Pennsylvania? 

First, a simple overview of the Groundhog Day rules: If Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow when he first emerges from his burrow, we get six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, we’re in for an early Spring.

So, Phil’s got two choices. A 50 percent chance of guessing it right. Yet his record of correctly forecasting the weather has been terrible. We’re better off going with whatever the opposite of Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions are.

Phil has been doing this since 1887 (as a side note: damn, he’s old). As of 2023, Phil has 137 predictions under his belt. Unfortunately, 9 of those predictions have been lost to history. But, that means we have 128 predictions to look at here. Phil has seen his shadow and predicted 6 more weeks of winter a total of 108 times. He’s predicted an early Spring only 20 times. 

What about this year? For 2023(Opens in a new window), Phil has gone with his comfortable 6 more weeks of winter prediction after seeing his shadow. On the flip side, his biggest competitor, Staten Island Chuck, just predicted(Opens in a new window) an early Spring for a whopping 8th year in a row. 

Punxsutawney Phil vs Staten Island Chuck

Who will be right this time? If I was a betting man, I would not go with the Nate Silver of Punxsutawney, PA. I’d go with Chuck who has an incredible 80 percent accuracy rate since he’s been in the game starting in 1981. Not bad for a rodent who was dropped by NYC Mayor de Blasio in 2014 and passed away a few days later. 

Regardless of who is right this time around, I think we can all agree that Phil and Chuck are already having a better year than Quebec’s groundhog Fred la Marmotte. The Canadians who put together that Groundhog Day event brought everyone out this morning and waited right before Fred was to come out and make his prediction to drop the ultimate surprise(Opens in a new window): Fred’s dead.

Happy Groundhog Day!

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