How Accurate Are Punxsutawney Phil's Groundhog Day Weather Predictions?
This morning—Tuesday, February 2, 2021—Punxsutawney Phil crawled forth from his tiny tree trunk abode and prophesied another six weeks of winter. It certainly appears to be an apt prediction at the moment; snow was falling fast throughout the ceremony, and it's hard to imagine that spring could be just around the corner for the currently frigid Northeast. Plus, considering that the legendary groundhog has been forecasting the weather since the first Groundhog Day in 1887, it seems safe to assume that he’s gotten pretty good at it by now.
The stats, however, indicate that practice doesn’t always make perfect when it comes to mid-sized meteorological rodents. As Live Science reports, the Groundhog Club’s records show that Phil has predicted more winter 103 times, and an early spring just 19. Based on data from the Stormfax Almanac, that means Phil’s accuracy rate is an abysmal 39 percent. If you only look at weather records dating back to 1969, which are more reliable than earlier accounts, Phil’s job performance review gets even worse: those predictions were correct only 36 percent of the time.
Almost starting to feel sorry for an apparently lousy employee who only has to work for a few minutes each year? According to meteorologist Tim Roche at Weather Underground, Punxsutawney Phil is much more successful when he doesn’t see his shadow. “Out of the 15 times that he didn’t see his shadow and predicted an early spring, he got it right seven times,” Roche told Live Science. “That’s a 47 percent accuracy rate.”
While Phil is far from infallible, human meteorologists are, too. As National Weather Service meteorologist David Unger told Live Science, “If our forecasts are about 60 percent accurate or higher, then we consider that to be a good estimate.”
Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at email@example.com.