The most famous rodent in America has predicted six more weeks of frigid cold for the country.
At 7:25 a.m. on Monday, February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his home inside a tree stump and saw his shadow. According to legend, Phil’s seeing his shadow predicts six more weeks of winter weather. Conversely, if Phil returns to his hole “shadow-less,” there will an early spring.
But just how accurate is the erstwhile groundhog? In 2014, Phil predicted six more weeks of winter. The rodent was right: the early spring season saw record low temperatures and high snow falls across the country. Phil’s prediction was verified. However, in 2013, Phil predicted an early spring, only to outsmarted by Mother Nature. The nation saw a long winter of storms, and Phil’s validity was called into question.
In fact, Phil’s been wrong a few times before. The groundhog (or, more aptly, a groundhog) has been announcing his predictions since 1887. He has seen his shadow 102 times, and has missed it only 17. Despite these overwhelmingly dark numbers (102 years of longer winters isn’t exactly a cheerful thought), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Center has stated that Phil has an 80% success rate in predicting the weather.
So what does Phil do for the other 364 days a year when he’s not predicting the weather? The groundhog is kept in posh digs under the care of the Punxsutawney Groundhog’s Club Inner Circle, a group tasked with caring for Phil and with planning his annual ceremony. The Inner Circle wear tuxedos and top hats to the events, and read off poetry supposedly proclaimed by the groundhog once he emerged from his stump.
Phil isn’t the only critter who reports the weather on February 2nd. Jimmy the Groundhog, who lives in Sun Prairie, WI, who predicted an early spring. Jimmy’s prediction might be in doubt, however: this was his first time predicting, and instead of whispering his answer calmly to the mayor of Sun Prairie, the groundhog nipped his ear instead.
Sir Walter Walley lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, also predicted an early spring. New York City’s Staten Island Chuck (also known as Charles G. Hogg), Punxsutawney Phil’s constant opponent, also predicted an early spring for 2015.
Fear surrounds the Staten Island Chuck family: in 2009, Charles bit then-NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, resulting in the mayor’s absence from future events. In 2014, Mayor Bill deBlasio was willing to pick up the hedgehog once more–but this time, the zookeepers quietly swapped in Chuck’s mate, Charlotte. During the ceremony, deBlasio accidentally dropped a struggling Charlotte. The groundhog died one week later, from mysterious injuries. The zoo reported the official cause of death as “unknown natural causes,” but mystery still veils the circumstances.
This year, the Staten Island Zoo used Charlotte and Chuck’s daughter, Charlotte Jr., for the festival. She was kept in a plexiglass cage and only handled by zookeepers in her appearance as “Chuck.”
The verdict is out amongst our cute furry friends: will we see harsh weather, or a crisp spring? Time will only tell. But one fact will remain incontestable–these fuzzy creatures have made their way into the hearts and minds of people across the world.
To watch the video of this year’s prediction, visit the Washington Post website.
Photo Credit: National Geographic, Alex Wong: Getty Images