It's Groundhog Day 2014 and thousands gathered -- as they do on an annual basis -- in the small town of Punxsutawney in Pennsylvania to see the local celebrity, Punxsutawney Phil, wake up, move out of his burrow, and try to be enough of a sunblock to cast a shadow. Why would he do that? Well, for one thing, it gives him six more weeks during which he can sleep -- because of impending inclement weather. And who couldn't use a little more sleep these days?
Reuters reported (via Yahoo News) Feb. 2 that it was Groundhog Day 2014 and thousands gathered -- as they do on an annual basis -- in the small town of Punxsutawney in Pennsylvania to see the local celebrity, Punxsutawney Phil. (See what's happening here? Bet you feel a little like Bill Murray now, don't you? But enough of this…) And as has become the usual outcome of Punxsutawney's first foray outside after hibernating for the winter, he did see his shadow. (The converse of the equation reads: If the groundhog doesn't see his shadow, winter will be ending soon.)
Historically, Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow more often as not. And in recent years, the furry woodchuck has been the hairy harbinger of Spring, not a messenger warning of an even longer Winter. According to the National Climatic Data Center, by 2012 the famed groundhog had seen his shadow one hundred times out of the 116 times the event has been recorded since 1887. But he didn't see his shadow last year. And in all those 117 times the event has been observed, as is noted by the Stormfax Weather Almanac, the groundhog has been accurate in predicting the end of winter only 39 percent of the time.
So, anyway, this made his 101st shadow sighting...
So, would the Farmers' Almanac or The Old Farmer's Almanac be a better guide to the weather? According to an NPR report, the answer is: They would not.
Penn State meteorologist Paul Knight says of the Farmers' Almanac: "If you held them to every single word for the entire area and every word for the entire period, then I say they might not even be right one third of the time."
Guessing as to The Old Farmer's Almanac's predictive accuracy, Jonathan Martin, chairman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, told NPR that "their success rate is more like half what they say." Well, "they" say they're about 80 percent accurate.
So, 33 percent and 40 percent, respectively. Not definitively accurate by any means...
Over in New York, Staten Island Chuck backed up his furry colleague, also seeing his shadow. New mayor Bill de Blasio lost his grip on the animal while he was holding him, prompting a collective gasp from the crowd when the woodchuck hit the ground. Still, at least de Blasio wasn't bitten (like former mayor Michael Bloomberg).
So… What to expect? To be safe, one should prepare for six more weeks of bad weather -- but expect to see an early end to Winter. Either way, you're covered.