How accurate are Punxsutawney Phil’s forecasts?


Phil and his handler AJ DerumeJeff Swensen/Getty

Crowds showed up this morning to watch as Punxsutawney Phil came out of his “burrow,” only to see … his shadow on 2-2-22. As the legend has it, that means six more weeks of winter weather…Phil the groundhog has been forecasting the weather on Groundhog Day for more than 120 years, but just how good is he at his job?

Not very, it turns out.

Punxsutawney Phil was first tasked with predicting the upcoming spring weather in 1887, and the process hasn’t changed much since. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, takes care of Phil year-round, and on each Feb. 2, members of the club’s Inner Circle rouse Phil at sunrise (this morning, they awakened him at 7:25 a.m.) to see if he casts a shadow. (Contrary to popular belief, Phil doesn’t actually have to see his shadow; he just has to cast one to make his wintery prophecy.)

Data from the Stormfax Almanac’s data shows that Phil’s six-week prognostications have been correct about 39% of the time.

Phil does a shade poorer when you check his performance against actual weather outcomes since 1969, when the accuracy of weather records is less in question, said Tim Roche, a meteorologist at Weather Underground. From 1969 on, Phil’s overall accuracy rate drops to about 36%.

Cultural icons are meant to be just that and – very often – not more. Sill an enjoyable read.

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