Skip to main content

Is Spring Near? Punxsutawney Phil Doesn't See His Shadow

groundhog-phil-02
Members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club with Punxsutawney Phil. (Image credit: The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club | groundhog.org)

Early this morning, Punxsutawney Phil signaled that winter is almost over.

The furry groundhog, which is also commonly known as a marmot or woodchuck, did not see his shadow, suggesting that an early spring is on its way.

During the prognostication, officials delighted onlookers when they announced, "There is no shadow to be cast; an early spring is my forecast!"  [The Surprising Origins of 9 Common Superstitions]

But it remains to be seen whether Punxsutawney Phil's 130th prediction will come true, especially because the rodent's forecast is accurate just 39 percent of the time, Live Science reported last year.

What's more, Phil has competition. Staten Island Chuck also goes through the whole rigmarole of predicting winter's longevity every Feb. 2. The two woodchucks don't always agree, which isn't totally a surprise, given that one lives in Pennsylvania and the other in New York.

This year, Staten Island Chuck predicted the same as Phil.

However, Staten Island Chuck usually has better odds than Phil. A look at 20 years of the woodchucks' predictions show that Chuck is right about 67 percent of the time, and Phil, as mentioned, nails it only about 39 percent of the time, according to DNAinfo, a site that covers New York City news.  

But regardless of whether Phil's forecasting skills are accurate this year, Punxsutawney still has much merriment planned for today. After Phil's prognostication, they have a chainsaw carving show, a groundhog souvenir and craft show, and a free viewing of the 1993 blockbuster "Groundhog Day," starring Bill Murray, among other outdoorsy activities.

The roots of Groundhog Day go back to medieval Europe, and were brought to the United States when German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania in the 1800s, bringing their traditions with them.

Punxsutawney Phil is reported to be 130 years old — as old as the official celebration itself in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania — but woodchucks (Marmota monax) typically live about six years in the wild, making us wonder whether the current Phil's predecessors are at the fabled big farm in the sky.

Follow Laura Geggel on Twitter @LauraGeggel. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Laura Geggel
As an associate editor for Live Science, Laura Geggel covers general science, including the environment, archaeology and amazing animals. She has written for The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site covering autism research. Laura grew up in Seattle and studied English literature and psychology at Washington University in St. Louis before completing her graduate degree in science writing at NYU. When not writing, you'll find Laura playing Ultimate Frisbee.