Punxsutawney Phil sees shadows and predicts another 6 weeks of winter

Punxsutawney Phil, Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog, awoke Thursday morning to see his shadow – which, according to folklore, means there will be six more weeks of winter.

Every year on February 2, thousands descend on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to watch the giant rodent make its annual dawn weather forecast with the help of its “inner circle” — a group of local dignitaries in charge of planning are events, as well as feeding and caring for Phil himself.

According to legend, there are still six weeks of winter when he sees his shadow. If not, spring will come earlier.

“No matter how you measure, there’s still six weeks of winter weather left,” Phil’s handler read aloud from a scroll to a crowd of thousands early Thursday.

8a8dca01-Punxsutawney Phil seeks his shadow in the annual tradition of Groundhog Day

Groundhog leader AJ Derume captures Punxsutawney Phil who saw his shadow and predicted a late spring during the 136th annual Groundhog Day celebrations February 2, 2023 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Groundhog Day is a popular tradition in the United Sta

In the last two years, Phil predicted six more weeks of winter. His forecast for 2020 called for an early spring.

The groundhog tradition is believed to have originated in the 19th century and over time has become an integral part of American culture. Thousands of people this year spent the early hours celebrating and waiting for the groundhog to emerge from its winter lair.

The event practically took place in 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, depriving the community, about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, of a tourist boom. Last year thousands came back to celebrate the annual event.


A crowd waits to see Phil on February 2, 2023 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Groundhog Day is a popular tradition in the United States and Canada. (Photo by Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

Groundhog Day forecast accuracy

Punxsutawney Groundhog Club records show that Phil predicted 105 prolonged winters and only 20 early springs. According to the Stormfax Almanacthis equates to a 39% accuracy rate for Phil.

In the short term, the Groundhog’s accuracy rate is slightly better. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationPhil has been right about 40% of the time on average over the past ten years.

For 2021 Phil predicted more winters. According to NOAA, his forecast was about half right. February 2021 was the coldest since 1989, but March proved warmer than normal.

“Predicting the arrival of spring for an entire country, especially one with such diverse regional climates as the United States, is not easy,” NOAA says on its website. “Phil’s track record is a testament to that.”

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Groundhog Day origins: history of the annual tradition


Landon Cook, Aiden Cameron, Sawyer Hall and Matt Grusky cheer during a concert on February 2, 2023 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

The celebration of Groundhog Day began with the earliest settlers in Pennsylvania, according to the Groundhog Club. They brought with them the legend of Candlemas, which says: “For as far as the sun shines on Candlemas, so far will the snow whirl in May…”, writes the club on its website.

The ancient Christian tradition of Candlemas involved the blessing of the clergy and the distribution of candles needed for the winter. The candles represented how long and cold the winter would be, notes History.com. The Germans expanded on this by choosing an animal – the hedgehog – as a means of predicting the weather.

“Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they switched from hedgehogs to groundhogs, which were plentiful in the Keystone State,” writes the outlet.

Punxsutawney held its first groundhog day in the 19th century. The first official hike to Gobbler’s Knob – a tiny hill just outside of town – didn’t take place until February 2, 1887. This year Phil saw his shadow.

Its initial forecast of six more weeks of winter was accurate for some regions but fell short for some others, NOAA said.

Why is the groundhog called Phil?

Punxsutawney Phil was named after “King Phillip”, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club online – without further elaboration.

Some news outlets have noted that “King Philip” may refer to the English name given to Metacomet, the chief of the Wampanoag people who formerly occupied parts of modern-day Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Before he was called Phil, according to the Club, his name was Br’er Groundhog.


Vice President Dan McGinley shows the crowd a scroll while Groundhog Handler AJ Derume holds Punxsutawney Phil who saw his shadow and predicted a late spring during the 136th annual Groundhog Day celebrations February 2, 2023 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania

Other rodent weather forecasters

While Phil has grown in popularity over the years, there are other rodent weather forecasters out there. New York’s Staten Island Chuck will also make his prediction Thursday during an event at the Staten Island Zoo.

Elsewhere, onlookers usually flock to the Groundhog Day celebrations in Milltown, New Jersey to catch a glimpse of another famous groundhog named Milltown Mel. Last year, news broke that the weather-predicting rodent died just before his annual big day, and the city canceled the event because the wranglers didn’t have enough time to find a replacement.

This year, organizers found a new forecaster, but the event was reportedly canceled again due to an unforeseen legal obstacle.

French Creek Freddie, a West Virginia groundhog, was scheduled to make his prediction for the 46th Groundhog Day at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center, according to local news outlets.

“We’re very excited to see what Freddie predicts this year and to welcome all of our guests, many of whom travel to French Creek each February,” Trevor Moore, wildlife biologist at the Wildlife Center, told WBOY-TV. “We have several special activities planned and we hope folks and their families will come out and enjoy a fun morning at the Wildlife Center.”

Ms. G, the Massachusetts state groundhog, was preparing for her big moment. The annual event, similar to Punxsutawney Phil’s, was to be held at Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, according to Mass Audubon.

Buckeye Chuck, Ohio’s number one predictive groundhog since 1979, was willing to make his prediction in Marion. Radio station WMRN-AM announced that it would broadcast the event live and on the groundhog’s Facebook page.

This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed to this.