Punxsutawney Phil, the world's most famous fuzzy forecaster, popped out of his burrow Sunday morning and predicted six more weeks of winter, much to the disappointment of the crowd gathered at Gobbler's Knob in Pennsylvania.
According to folklore, if it's cloudy when the groundhog emerges, the critter will leave his burrow, signifying that winter will soon end. If it's a sunny day, Phil will supposedly see his shadow and, frightened, retreat back into his burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks.
An analysis of weather data from the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., shows that Phil's forecasts are, on average, inaccurate. "The groundhog has shown no talent for predicting the arrival of spring, especially in recent years," according to the center. "Phil's competitor groundhogs across the nation fared no better."
The center found that from 1988 to 2012, the groundhog was right 10 times and wrong 15 times. In other words, 10 times, the national average temperature for the remainder of February matched what would be expected based on what the groundhog predicted.
Last year, the furry rodent did not see his shadow, so there should have been an early spring. Phil gets a mixed grade last year — the nation had a slightly warmer than average February but a chillier than average March.
Since 1887, the groundhog has seen his shadow 100 times (meaning six more weeks of winter), and not seen it 17 times to predict an early spring. There is no record of the prediction for nine years in the late 19th century.
Although Phil is the most famous hog of them all, other prognosticating groundhogs include West Virginia's French Creek Freddie, Georgia's Gen. Beauregard Lee, Ohio's Buckeye Chuck, North Carolina's Sir Wally Wally, Alabama's Smith Lake Jake and New York's Staten Island Chuck (full name: Charles G. Hogg).
Groundhog Day has its origins in an ancient celebration of Candlemas, a point midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, according to the climate center.
Superstition has it that fair weather was seen as a prediction of a stormy and cold second half to winter, as noted in this Old English saying:
"If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again."