The first week of February is upon us and that means that one of the most unique holidays will soon be celebrated. Yes, I am talking about the day when the next six weeks of weather is decided.

The official name of the groundhog is Punxsutawney Phil and every year on February 2 he emerges from his den to crowds of people who await his prediction.

How do Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions hold up? Take a look at the accuracy of the spring predictions and the history of Groundhog Day.

How accurate is Punxsutawney Phil for Youngstown?

First, let’s clarify exactly how Groundhog Day works. Every year on February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil comes out at sunrise. If he sees his shadow, then the official prediction is six more weeks of winter. If conditions are cloudy then the official prediction is that spring will come early.

Now, you do not have to delve into the historical data to realize that making a prediction based off a groundhog is not exactly scientific. Therefore, to assess the accuracy of our furry friend, we must make take a more scientific approach.

I have taken the average temperature over the entire period of record for February 2nd through March 16th (six weeks after Groundhog day) which works out to be around 31°F.

Then, the average temperature for this time period every year is compared to Phil’s prediction. If the average temperature for this 6 week period was below average and Phil predicted six more weeks of winter then this counts as a win for Phil.

Conversely, if the average temperature does not match up with Phil’s prediction then this counts as a loss. Phil’s first appearance was in 1886, but there were a few years that he did not appear and there are some years when Youngstown was not recording official climate data. Overall, there are 92 data entries for this experiment.

Punxsutawney Phil’s accuracy chart for Youngstown

Overall, Punxsutawney Phil is wrong more than he is right when making his weather prediction. Phil’s greatest success occurred during the period of 1978-1983 when his prediction was right every year for Youngstown.

Unfortunately, according to Stormfax weather almanac, Phil is only about 39% accurate for the rest of the country. On the bright side, it looks like Phil has slightly better predictive powers in Youngstown.

History of Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is celebrated every year on February 2. It was first celebrated in 1887. The holiday originated from the Pennsylvania Dutch but similar traditions have been traced back to Europe before Jesus Christ was born.

The modern day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania which is less than a 2 hour drive from Youngstown.

How many Punxsutawney Phils have there been? The official Groundhog Day website claims that there has only been one Punxsutawney Phil and that there is a “secret elixir” that keeps him alive.

However, if you assume that the average lifespan of a groundhog is three years, then you can assume that there has been close to 45 different groundhogs that have filled this role.

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

You might be surprised to know that Phil has some competition here in Ohio! Buckeye Chuck is Ohio’s official groundhog and he has been making weather prediction since the 1970s.

What does the weather look like? Currently, the forecast for Thursday is for partly cloudy skies in Punxsutawney, PA. Therefore, it is likely that Phil will see his shadow and predict six more weeks of winter.