While we dealt with a winter storm that brought several inches of snow to parts of the Sunflower State, Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his borough in Pennsylvania. This year, Phil saw his shadow predicting another six weeks of winter. Punxsutawney Phil has been making predictions since 1887. It is a tradition that dates back to Europe as Germans originally chose a hedgehog as the animal of choice. When they settled in Pennsylvania, the groundhog was later chosen since they were more common.

The tradition continues each February 2nd, 135 years later, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, at Gobbler’s Knob. Groundhog Day has been an annual ritual of trying to predict how much longer the colder days of winter last. After this long, how accurate is the groundhog?

To know, we would have to look at average temperatures for February and March and stack those against whether or not he saw his shadow. Since Phil is making this prediction on a national level, we will compare average temperatures across the United States. Let us take the last 20 years, as an example.

Since 2002, Phil saw his shadow 14 times predicting winter would last another 6 weeks. Below average temperatures for both February and March would validate a prediction for seeing his shadow. Similarly, above average temperatures for both months would favor an early spring prediction. Over the past 20 years, Punxsutawney Phil has made accurate predictions nationally six times. This means his success rate is only 30 percent.

What makes these predictions difficult is the varied weather patterns experienced across the entire country. A warmer than average February in Kansas may not be the case across the East Coast and vice versa, and we can easily see things change by March depending on the pattern that sets up. While it is fun to monitor this annual tradition, we can see that Phil may not give us the best representation of climatological trends for a two month period. Regardless of Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction, we can use Groundhog Day as the halfway point through winter knowing the vernal equinox, or spring, is about another six weeks away.

— Meteorologist Erika Paige