by Elle Seybold
on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021 at 12:03pm.
We have 6 more weeks of winter this year – according to Punxsutawney Phil. I was curious about the accuracy and history of Phil’s predictions so I did a little research I’d like to share with you.
Since 1887, Phil and his predecessors have predicted 103 forecasts of more winter and 20 early springs, according to Stormfax Almanac (no records exist for nine years). Live Science did an analysis of the data and concluded Phil’s six-week predictions have been correct just 39% of the time. Over the past 10 years, Phil has upped his accuracy to 50%, according to NOAA, nailing his prediction in 2020, 2016, 2014, 2013, and 2011.
While Phil gets the bulk of the attention and headlines, his New York City rival — Staten Island Chuck — also gets trotted out every year to offer a competing forecast for the next six weeks. Chuck, who also goes by Charles G. Hogg, resides at the Staten Island Zoo. He and his predecessors have been making weather predictions since 1981, and like Phil he was proven correct last year by forecasting an early spring.
As if we humans don’t suffer enough at the hands of politicians… poor Chuck has had a few run-ins with politicians over the past few years himself. In 2009, Chuck bit then-mayor Bloomberg. He was replaced by his granddaughter, Charlotte. Then, sadly, during the 2014 ceremony, Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped Charlotte on the ground, and she died several days later.
Chuck and Phil have disagreed on the forecast six times since 2008, and the Staten Island rodent has only been wrong once since 2010, according to the Staten Island Advance. Incidentally, Chuck says spring is just around the corner this year.
Just where does all this groundhog business originate from? According to the Pennsylvania Tourism Office, Romans brought the early Christian holiday Candlemas to Germany, who concluded that if there was enough sun on Candlemas Day for a badger to cast a shadow, there would be six more weeks of bad weather. German immigrants brought this tradition to Pennsylvania, and in 1886 the editor of Punxsutawney’s newspaper, teamed up with a group of groundhog hunters to begin the legend of Punxsutawney Phil’s weather prowess. Today, in the United States and Canada, we celebrate Groundhog Day on the same date Christians across the globe celebrate Candlemas.
Personally, I hope Phil is correct. New Mexico could use a bit more snow, we can certainly stand to stock up on water.