How accurate are Punxsutawney Phil’s forecasts?

Turns out he’s right half the time

Groundhog Club handler A.J. Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 135th celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. Phil's handlers said that the groundhog has forecast six more weeks of winter weather during this year's event that was held without anyone in attendance due to potential COVID-19 risks. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger) (Barry Reeger, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Orlando, FLA. – We all know that predicting the weather is not a perfect science, but it is certainly better than trusting a rodent for your pinpoint-accurate weather forecasts.

No matter how good or bad his forecasts have been, Punxsutawney Phil continues to stick with the tradition every February 2nd.

On a gloomy and snowy morning at Gobbler’s Knob in Pennsylvania, the furry 20-pound groundhog emerged to see his shadow -- which according to folklore, means there will be six more weeks of winter.

Whether that prediction comes to fruition or not is too early to tell, but according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, Punxsutawney Phil’s precision could be better.

Phil’s predictions date back to 1887, since then he has predicted 20 early Springs, 104 more Winters, and 10 times with no official record.

Over the past decade, when comparing his forecast to the final U.S. national temperature, Phil has been right only 50 percent of the time.

Check out this graphic from NOAA, showing which years he got right, and the one’s he was off the mark.

This updated 2021 infographic shows the groundhog's history of seasonal "predictions" (seeing his shadow or not) from 2011 through 2020. (NOAA NCEI)

One of the years he got correct was 2020.

Phil did not see his shadow, predicted we would have an early start to spring and that was certainly the case. Last year, the country’s average temperature for both February and March ran well above the average mark. March 2020 even broke records as the 10th warmest March on record nationally.

When it comes to Florida, even though there is not much of a difference between Winter and Spring, Phil did hit the bullseye for us too in 2020. All of Central Florida ran about three degrees above the average in February, and March topping the record books as the hottest March on record in Orlando.

Looking at the past decade, for central Floridians, Phil’s grade point average was the exact same for predicting our “change of seasons”. He guessed correctly in 2020, 2019, 2016, 2014 and 2011.

But can we just give poor Phil a bit of a break?

Predicting the arrival of spring, months in advance for an entire country that has such varied regional climates, is no easy task.

I tip my top hat to this cute little critter, for showing up every year with a smile on his face and keeping with a national tradition.

Are you a fan of an early Spring or a longer winter? Let me know in the comments below or send me an e-mail here.


About the Author:

Candace joined the News 6 team as the weekend morning meteorologist and reporter. She comes to Central Florida from Miami.