Groundhog Day festivities and a look at Punxsutawney Phil's accuracy

It’s a century-old tradition that people can’t get enough of – Punxsutawney Phil, America's most famous groundhog, will come out of hibernation on Feb. 2 and predict whether we'll see six more weeks of winter weather.

Every year, if the rodent sees its shadow, then it will retreat back to its burrow and winter will continue, according to legend. But if it doesn’t see a shadow, due to overcast skies, then spring will allegedly arrive early.

The top hat and tuxedo-wearing members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle decide the forecast ahead of time and reveal the prediction on Feb. 2.


Here’s what you need to know about the big day.

How accurate are Punxsutawney Phil's predictions?

Phil may be the most famous groundhog in the U.S., but he isn't the most accurate.

The four-legged creature only has a 39 percent accuracy, according to Stormfax Almanac's data. Phil sees his shadow about 85 percent of the time.

A look at records dating back to 1887, when the tradition started, show Phil has seen his shadow 103 times and hasn't seen it just 18 times. There are nine years that weren't reported.

"If Punxsutawney Phil is right 39 percent of the time, that's much, much worse than a climatological prediction," Tim Roche, a meteorologist at Weather Underground, told LiveScience. "Even if you flip a coin, you'll still be right close to half of the time that's a 50 percent accuracy rate. So you'll be better off flipping a coin than going by the groundhog's predictions."

The groundhog's handler, however, maintains that Phil's predictions are always "100 percent correct."

"Unfortunately, there have been years where the president has misinterpreted what Phil said," Ploucha told PennLive in 2017. "Because Phil's never wrong...we blame the variants on the president's interpretation of Phil's prediction."

Here's a look at Phil's predictions over the past 12 years, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's records.

2019: No shadow

2018: Shadow

2017: Shadow

2016: No shadow

2015: Shadow

2014: Shadow

2013: No shadow

2012: Shadow

2011: No shadow

2010: Shadow

2009: Shadow

2008: Shadow

How did Groundhog Day get started?

The Groundhog Day celebration started when Germans – Pennsylvania's earliest settlers – introduced Candlemas Day, a Christian holiday celebrated on Feb. 2, to the state.

On Feb. 2, the halfway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox, Germans turned to badgers to predict the future of the weather. But when they moved to Pennsylvania, they found another creature to take its place.


"The settlers found that groundhogs were plentiful and were the most intelligent and sensible animal to carry on the legend of Candlemas Day," according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

How did the tradition in Punxsutawney become so popular?

The tradition grew in popularity in 1993 with the release of the comedy "Groundhog Day," starring Bill Murray. Murray, who plays a weatherman in the film, gets trapped in a time warp and has to relive the day over and over again until he gets it right.

Before the movie premiered, Phil was lucky to have a couple hundred people attend the event. Now thousands of people from across the country travel to the small town of Punxsutawney, located 84 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.