Punxsutawney Phil Says Six More Weeks of Winter
Each Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, groundhog Punxsutawney Phil forecasts six weeks of weather based on his shadow (or lack thereof). If he sees his shadow, there’s six more weeks of winter. If not, spring comes early and the cold weather should end.
So what’s the prediction for 2023? Well, good old Phil saw his shadow, so it looks like this recent bout of cold weather is here to stay. NPR explained that the official forecast (read by a handler from a scroll chosen by Phil himself) is: "I see a shadow on my stage, and so no matter how you measure, it's six more weeks of winter weather." This follows recent years' predictions, and CBS News noted that “Phil has predicted winter more than 100 times.”
Of course, basing a weather forecast off the shadow seen by a marmot seems to be an old farmer’s tale. However, it’s actually based in astronomy — According to the Farmer’s Almanac, Groundhog’s Day is halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox, and that “the holiday stems from an ancient Celtic celebration called Imbolc.” NPR explained that Imbolc traditions of lighting candles hark back to the 10th century.
A later iteration of this holiday was called Candlemas, and groundhogs weren’t always used to predict the upcoming season change. France and England used bears, while in Germany badgers were more common. NPR added that Germans also used hedgehogs for this tradition. When they came to the U.S., German immigrants couldn’t find enough badgers or hedgehogs to use for their predictions, so they used groundhogs instead. Thus, Groundhog Day joined the many traditions Americans adopted from German immigrants, alongside Christmas trees and the Easter Bunny.
Despite Phil’s nickname of “Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather-Prophet Extraordinary,” his predictions could use some work. Farmer’s Almanac noted that this year, meteorologists predicted Phil would see his shadow based on the anticipated weather of the day, which did in fact occur. However when it comes to six-week predictions, Phil is only correct in his prediction around 40 percent of the time.
Phil isn’t the only prophetic animal out there. NPR explained that other notable weather predicting animals include New York’s groundhog “Staten Island Chuck,” Ontario’s groundhog “Wiarton Willie,” North Carolina’s white squirrel “Pisgah Pete,” Connecticut’s duck “Scramble,” and the Oregon Zoo’s beaver “‘Stumpton Fil.’”
Here at Carnegie Mellon, the drive to Punxsutawney, PA is just one and a half hours, making the round trip only three hours out of our busy days to visit the groundhog. To celebrate the holiday, the town hosts many events, including a Groundhog Ball and many photo-ops with Phil. If the drive is too long, the town also has a livestream of the Groundhog’s Day predictions.
However, for the best in-person groundhog experience, a drive to Punxsutawney isn’t necessary — simply go to the hill behind Tepper and see the wild groundhogs living there.