A week from tomorrow is Groundhog Day already. The long-range forecast for the Philadelphia region called for snow on February 2nd, the last time I looked at it; but checking it again while writing this, the prognostication is for partly cloudy.
Still, there’s a good chance old Punxsutawney Phil won’t see his shadow and springtime weather will be rapidly forthcoming. The funny part of all this is we’ve been having quite a mild, snowless season thus far in these parts with some days feeling more like spring than winter.
How accurate is that dadburned groundhog’s predictions anyway? According to an article from Life Science, written last year at around this time, Phil has been forecasting the weather for over 120 years, first tasked with predicting the start of spring weather in 1887.
The sleepy critter is roused at sunrise by the Inner Circle of the Groundhog Club in Punxsutawney, PA, every February 2nd, to see if he casts a shadow. The article states that Phil doesn’t have to see his own shadow to make the forecast; he just has to emit one. So much for the running back into his hole scared for six weeks if he does witness it. Nonetheless, the club cares for the rodent year-round, probably in plush surroundings.
Getting back to the accuracy of the groundhog’s foretelling the future, prior to last year, Phil had predicted 103 times for more winter, and 19 for an early spring. Nine years worth of data was missing for some reason. Matching the predictions with the actual outcomes since 1969, the overall tally has been correct about 36% of the time.
He was more accurate with the short-winter vaticinations for that period with a score of 47% correct, but one would be better off flipping a coin to make either determination. With a coin toss, the chance of being spot-on is 50%.
Why write about this a week ahead of time when it would be more appropriate to do so next Saturday night, February 1st? Everyone will be mentioning it then, especially on Social Media. I like to be on the cutting edge of things. Besides, my mind drew a blank about what to feature in tonight’s entry.
Punxsutawney Phil isn’t the only forecasting rodent. Several others are located in various parts of the country. Staten Island Chuck, aka Charles G. Hogg—who resides at the Staten Island Zoo—serves as the official prognosticator for New York City, usually attended by the mayor. The groundhog bit the Honorable Michael Bloomberg when he officiated as NYC’s chief executive in 2009. Now the ex-mayor has his sights set on the presidency as a Democratic candidate during this election year.
Chuck was replaced on the sly by his granddaughter, Charlotte, as a result. In 2014, the current mayor: Bill de Blasio, dropped her onto the ground during the ceremony. She died a week later due to acute internal injuries consistent with a fall, according to an article in the New York Post entitled: “Zoo in cover-up after groundhog dropped by de Blasio dies.”
Then there’s the immortal movie called Goundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, in which he gets trapped in a time loop, waking up every morning to the same Sonny and Cher’s song, “I Got You Babe,” on the clock radio, spending the rest of the day stuck in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, covering the annual Groundhog Day festivities for what seems like ages. It was hilarious. If you haven’t seen the film, be sure to watch it next Sunday. Surely (don’t call me Shirley), it will be playing on one of cable TV’s 189 or so channels. A trailer about the flick is posted below.
Here’s hoping Phil and whomever has taken over Staten Island Chuck’s job won’t cast a shadow on February 2nd. If Phil does, who cares with his accuracy? However, the Staten Island Zoo claims Chuck has correctly predicted the end of winter 82% of the time since 1981 . Either way, I’ll be awaiting the outcome, looking forward to the return of my beloved ospreys and baseball season.
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