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It’s a tradition we all know quite well: Every year on February 2, one groundhog’s emergence from its burrow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, is said to determine how warm or cold the rest of winter will be. Today, at 7:30 a.m. EST this morning, Punxsutawney Phil — the fated groundhog, named after his town — emerged without seeing his shadow, and as the tradition goes, this means spring will arrive early this year.
However, according to sources far and wide, Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions aren’t always accurate. The National Centers for Environmental Information, which is the country’s leading scientific board regarding climate change and other environmental matters, say that the groundhog “shows no predictive skill” for the direction of winter’s remainder. Nevertheless, Punxsutawney Phil’s most ardent supporters — namely, the leaders of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club — remain unfazed: According to CNN, the groundhog’s handlers and the club’s higher-ups say that his predictions sometimes “get lost in translation.”
Regardless, Punxsutawney Phil’s annual predictions offer a fun opportunity to reflect on everyone’s favorite small-talk topic: the weather. The recent polar vortex, which saw temperatures dip dangerously to -56 in the Midwest, would seem to suggest winter is here to stay. This polar vortex is a prime example of the extreme cold that people hope Groundhog Day will fend off: It became so cold in the vortex’s most strongly-impacted regions that some people froze to death.
At least in the Northeast, though, Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions might just be right. A few days after the cold that the polar vortex brought upon the region is set to fade, unseasonably warm temperatures are predicted to dominate. In New York, on February 8, just eight days after the coldest day of the polar vortex, the temperature is currently predicted to reach 60 degrees Fahrenheit by 10 a.m. It’s also predicted to linger around the mid-40s in the four days before then, which is slightly above average for the season.
Whether Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions reassure you or sadden you, Groundhog Day can be a fun, lighthearted tradition for many to enjoy. Just don’t rely on his vision more strongly than that of your usual 10-day forecast.