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February 2023

Interesting Facts (pt.2)

Phil The Groundhog Is Accurate Less Than Half Of The Time


    Punxsutawney The star of Groundhog Day, Phil, has a challenging job. The cuddly creature is in charge of fostering (or crushing) our hopes for an early end to winter every February 2. However, it appears that basing our weather predictions on the shadow of a den-dwelling mammal may not be the best strategy. According to some estimations, Phil's prophecies have only been 39% accurate since they first started in 1887. (although data from some early years is missing). According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Phil was right 50% of the time between 2011 and 2020, which is about as accurate as a coin flip in recent years.


    The Sciuridae family, which also contains squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, prairie dogs, and other large animals, includes groundhogs as one of its largest members. The ability to dig is a trait shared by all of these rodents, and groundhogs frequently develop elaborate tunnel systems with numerous rooms and pathways.

    Of course, Phil is always right, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, the organization in charge of his upkeep and the official Groundhog Day ritual. The club insists that any errors are the fault of Phil's managers, speculating that in those cases they probably misunderstood the "groundhogese" he speaks and incorrectly transmitted his message.

    German immigrants who carried Candlemas Day celebrations with them brought the custom of watching groundhogs look for their shadow to the United States. The event, which is celebrated on February 2, honors the Virgin Mary's journey to the holy temple in Jerusalem 40 days after the birth of Jesus to be cleaned. Old-time celebrants observed that a sunny holiday was probably a sign that snow will arrive in the late spring.


    Since groundhogs are endemic to North America, groundhogs have been used to foretell the advent of spring instead of the badger or hedgehog that the original Germanic tradition called for. This ritual has attracted thousands of spectators to Punxsutawney every February for more than 130 years.

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