Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow



Jack Judge

Last Thursday, Pennsylvania’s most famous amateur meteorologist predicted six more weeks of winter after seeing his shadow at Gobbler’s Knob. Yes, Punxsutawney Phil determined that we can expect cold weather in the near future despite the tease of spring that has been present in the mild temperatures lately. The forecast from the supposedly 130 year old groundhog resonates more along the lines of a Game of Thrones quote usually attributed to Jon Snow than a continuation of the present weather. The notion that, “Winter is Coming” instead of more winter is equally agreeable as it is disconcerting. Nevertheless, Phil has spoken, and all of Punxsutawney, Pa gathered for the annual celebration. One may wonder the accuracy and authenticity this groundhog has regarding his qualifications to predict the weather.

According to The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil has seen his shadow 102 times compared to no shadow 18 times between 1887 and 2016 (there are ten years with no records). They also say that Phil administers his forecast in Groundhogese and the Groundhog Club president translates it to disseminate to the entire country. However, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has conducted research that shows Phil has only been right six out of the past twenty-nine times. Despite the questionable validity of Phil’s forecasts, he is still a tremendously cute animal and garners the attention of a massive audience across the country.

The origin of this tradition dates back to early German settlers in Pennsylvania. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club shares that “they brought with them the legend of Candlemas Day, which states ‘For as the sun shines on Candlemas day, so far will the snow swirl in May…’. The settlers found that groundhogs were plentiful and were the most intelligent and sensible animal to carry on the legend of Candlemas Day.” Phil is not the only groundhog that has a following for his forecasting talents. There are groundhogs, such as Staten Island Chuck, Shubenacadie Sam and Sir Walter Wally amongst many others. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club claims that all groundhog meteorologists besides Phil are imposters, yet here we are deliberating on the best one. 

Some took advantage of the opportunity to use the day to poke fun at the current political climate on social media. Ryan Burklow tweeted, “Bad news everybody! The groundhog awoke this morning, saw who was president, and predicted a long, cold, dark, nuclear winter #GroundhogDay.” Another person tweeted that, “Only in America…do we accept weather predictions from a rodent but deny climate change evidence from scientists.” 

Disregarding political commentary on Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast, it will be interesting to see if we continue to experience warm weather or get a late surprise of the conventional winter weather that this area is used to.