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Amid the excitement of Super Bowl LIV, which ended with the Kansas City Chiefs' first championship title in fifty years, it may have slipped your mind that yesterday was Groundhog Day. Observed annually on February 2, the fun North American tradition stems from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog, emerging from its burrow, sees its shadow, winter will continue for six more weeks. Conversely, the animal's failure to observe one indicates that spring is around the corner.
There are now numerous groundhogs and other animals across the country, such as the Texan armadillo Bee Cave Bob, who attempt to predict the weather on this day. However, it is the 134-year-old Punxsutawney Phil — purportedly kept alive by a mysterious elixir — who remains the most popular! As is the case annually, hundreds of people trekked to Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, PA, in the wee hours of the morning to witness the legendary woodchuck make his prophecy about the second half of winter.
The storied woodchuck, pulled out of his burrow by two handlers donned in tuxedos and top hats, carefully surveyed his surroundings before conveying his prediction to one of them in "Groundhogese." The crowd anxiously waited as the messenger translated Phil's message into English and announced: "Now my forecast on a day that's a palindrome will cause some to cheer and some to moan. So do I hope you think it's neighborly, for there is no shadow of me, spring it'll be early, it's a certainty."
While cross country rival Staten Island Chuck's prediction was not unveiled with such pomp, he concurred with Phil. Given that the two woodchucks have over a hundred years of weather predictions between them, is it time to start putting away your winter gear? Not so fast, say experts.
Though Phil's fans assert the woodchuck has never been wrong since he began making the prophecy in 1887, the experts at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center beg to differ. Their analysis indicates that in the past decade, the legendary groundhog has been right just 40 percent of the time. An examination of his overall record shows an even lower, 39 percent accuracy rate.
But given that 2020 marks only the 20th time the rodent meteorologist has foreseen an early spring, he may prove the human experts wrong. Additionally, supporters point out that in 2014, the only other time Groundhog Day coincided with Super Bowl Sunday, Phil's prophecy of a long winter proved accurate, with the brutally cold weather extending well into March.
Then there is also the fact that 2/20/20 was an extra special Groundhog Day, as the digits of its date made up a rare universal palindrome: a sequence that read the same way backward and forward, regardless of the date format used. Only time will tell if Phil and Chuck, who both proved wrong with their early spring prediction in 2019, will buck the trend this year. However, one thing is for sure, the rodent meteorologists are in no danger of getting fired from their "jobs" any time soon!
Happy Groundhog Day!
Resources: Wikipedia.org, CNN.com. Washingtonpost.com, Groundhog.org