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  • Writer's pictureBecky Faulks

It’s Groundhog Day! Punxsutawney Phil Predicts an Early Spring

Some have pointed to climate change as the cause of this prediction, but Phil’s record is notoriously unreliable

Groundhog Day has come around again, and so has the annual celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where 10,000 people gathered shortly after sunrise. Celebrated on February 2nd each year, the date marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. The ceremony focuses on what to expect from the weather for the next six weeks; will there be more winter, or is an early spring on the cards?

The groundhog himself determines this. According to local legend, if the groundhog – whose name is Punxsutawney Phil – emerges from his den, sees his shadow and retreats back into his burrow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, this indicates an early spring. More often than not, Phil predicts more winter, which is a pretty safe bet when the weather in Pennsylvania is taken into account. However, this year he has predicted an early spring, which has people concerned.

Could this be an indication of climate change, some have wondered? It certainly fits the narrative, but many have been quick to point out that Phil’s record isn’t entirely accurate; in fact, it seems he only gets it right about 39% of the time. The tongue-in-cheek ritual began in 1887, when Phil – who must be the world’s oldest living groundhog – was selected as the official hibernating animal to determine the weather. The tradition has Germanic roots and originally used a hedgehog, before German immigrants transferred it to the more local fauna. The 1993 movie starring Bill Murray made the occasion it famous, and today, Groundhog Day is still recognised far and wide.


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