Will Phil See His Shadow on Groundhog Day?

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
February 02, 2014; 1:10 AM
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AccuWeather broadcaster Elliot Abrams, on the far right, meets the groundhog on Groundhog Day in 2011.

Is there a method to Punxsutawney Phil's madness in predicting how long winter will last on Groundhog Day?

Since the tradition of Groundhog Day began in Punxsutawney in 1886, Phil has seen his shadow, on record, 100 times. There were 17 times that he did not see his shadow, and nine years during the late 1800s that there is no record of Phil's forecast.

Infographic: All There is to Know About Phil

Though Phil's method may seem flawed -- anticipating that the sight of his shadow determines a longer winter, while no shadow calls for an early spring -- he has a tendency to get it right. Because the year's coldest quarter, also known as meteorological winter, runs from Dec. 5 to March 5, Phil's accuracy in predicting a longer winter is about 80 percent.

Phil's logic comes from the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox observances of Candlemas Day, tracing back almost 1,000 years.

"An early association between the weather forecast and the religious observance is found in a Scottish couplet: 'If Candlemas is fair and clear / There'll be two winters in the year.'" AccuWeather.com Chief Forecaster Elliot Abrams said.

"If the weather is 'fair,' the groundhog sees its shadow, and this is supposed to mean six more weeks of winter," Abrams said. "This is somewhat like saying that despite the sunshine on Groundhog Day, more winter is due." In any case, on this Groundhog Day, the Northeast and Northwest can plan on seeing six more weeks of winter.

Phil will emerge to make his prognostication around 7:25 a.m. EST on Feb. 2, 2014.

Whether Phil calls for an early spring or not, the AccuWeather.com Long-Range Forecasting Team predicted that winter will continue for about half of the U.S.

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