Temperatures are forecast to drop in the Philadelphia area over the next few days and Punxsutawney Phil expects more of that over the next six weeks.
The nation’s favorite groundhog saw its shadow on Thursday morning after exiting its burrow at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney. That means the country can expect below average temperatures for the next six weeks if you join the legend of Phil’s weather forecasting skills.
Tens of thousands of groundhog enthusiasts gathered in the small western Pennsylvania town in the early hours of the morning to watch the annual ceremony hosted by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. Among those who attended the celebrations was newly elected Governor Josh Shapiro.
How accurate has Punxsutawney Phil been over the years?
Last year, Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter by seeing his shadow. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hasn’t addressed the accuracy of the forecast, but according to an analysis of weather data from The Inquirer, the contiguous United States saw temperatures slightly above average in February and early March, meaning Phil missed the mark.
Philadelphia experienced temperatures well above normal last year after Phil saw his shadow – average temperatures rose 3.8 degrees in February and 4.2 degrees in March.
Using data from NOAA, that would mean Phil has been correct only 40% of the time over the past 10 years, making his predictions in 2020, 2016, 2014, and 2013.
Since 1887, according to the Stormfax Almanac, Phil and his predecessors have predicted 105 times more winters and called for 20 early springs (there have been no records for nine years). Live Science analyzed the data last year and concluded that Phil’s six-week predictions were correct only 39% of the time.
» READ MORE: Punxsutawney Phil is clueless, meteorologists and computers say – let alone the trends
What about rival groundhogs on Staten Island and across the US?
While Phil gets almost all the attention each year, the New York media continues to promote competing forecasts from their own meteorological groundhog, Staten Island Chuck.
Chuck, also known as Charles G. Hogg, lives at the Staten Island Zoo. He and his predecessors have been forecasting since 1981, and he differed from Phil last year by correctly predicting an early spring.
Though Chuck doesn’t get nearly as much acclaim, he has had to contend with more harrowing conditions than his Pennsylvania counterpart. In 2009, Chuck bit then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and was secretly replaced by his granddaughter Charlotte for the 2014 ceremony. Unfortunately, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped Charlotte on the ground and the groundhog died a few days later.
So far, New York City Mayor Eric Adams has had a better working relationship with the stubborn-toothed forecaster.
Chuck and Phil have argued eight times over the prediction since 2008, and during that run the Staten Island rodent was wrong only twice, according to the Staten Island Advance. In fact, Chuck has had an 80% accuracy rate since 1981.
There are a number of lesser-known marmots across the country that people turn to for predictions. Woodstock Willie directs the film in Woodstock, Illinois Groundhog Day was filmed. There’s also Buckeye Chuck, who has been making predictions in Marion, Ohio since 1970. North of the border, Canadians in Nova Scotia turn to Shubenacadie Sam.
The city of New Jersey is still looking for a replacement groundhog
For the second year in a row, residents of Middlesex County, New Jersey didn’t have a groundhog to guide them this winter.
Milltown officials are still searching for a replacement for Milltown Mel, a lesser-known weather-predicting groundhog who died just days before Groundhog Day last year.
In the past, officials haven’t had much trouble replacing Mel. But they struggled to find a new groundhog this year — even if it was just a temporary replacement from a nearby zoo — and were forced to cancel their 2023 ceremony.
“You can’t just say, ‘Oh, I have one in my backyard,'” Milltown Wrangler Russ Einbinder told The Inquirer. “You try to handle one you haven’t handled since you were born and your hand gets bitten off.”
» READ MORE: Groundhog Day ceremony in Milltown, NJ has been canceled as the search for the new Mel continues
How did this whole groundhog weather forecast thing start?
According to the Pennsylvania Tourism Office, the Romans brought the early Christian holiday of Candlemas to Germany, which said if there was enough sun on Candlemas Day for a badger to cast a shadow, there would be another six weeks of bad weather.
German immigrants brought this tradition to Pennsylvania, and in 1886 the editor of the Punxsutawney newspaper joined with a group of marmot hunters to establish the legend of Punxsutawney Phil’s weather power. That’s why in the United States and Canada we celebrate Groundhog Day on the same day that Christians around the world celebrate Candlemas.
It’s the 30th anniversary of Groundhog Day
While Groundhog Day itself has been celebrated for more than a century, his film of the same name celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
Director Harold Ramis considered many actors for the lead role of a jaded meteorologist who relives the same day over and over again, including Tom Hanks and Pennsylvania native Michael Keaton. But both reject Ramis, who eventually settled on his Caddyshack And ghostbusters Associate, Bill Murray.
Ramis told the Hollywood Reporter making the film with Murray was “difficult” because a rift had formed between the duo that spanned two decades. According to Variety, they only got back together months before Ramis’ death in 2014.
But that on-set fight was nothing compared to the terror inflicted on Murray by his hairy co-star Scooter.
“A co-star who bites you once, well I can accept that. But a co-star that bites you twice, well, that’s a problem,” Murray said in a 1993 interview with The Inquirer, adding that the crew was banned from using the real Punxsutawney Phil while they were shooting the film because it was filmed in Woodstock, Illinois for logistical reasons.
“Phil was fabulous,” Murray recalled. “He is treated like royalty and is very good. A real pro. And when they couldn’t get him – a creature hand-raised from birth and very tame – what did they do? They went out into the woods and caught this Scooter, a groundhog that hated my guts from day one.”
So where can you stream? Groundhog Day?
The film is only available directly on AMC+, a subscription service that will set you back $8.99 a month (although there’s a seven-day free trial).
Groundhog Day is also airing all day on AMC beginning at 11:00am EST so tune in to your DVR.
Staff writer Anthony R. Wood contributed to this report.