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Groundhog Day: Can We Trust Punxsutawney Phil?

It’s Groundhog Day, and according to Punxsutawney Phil, we’re in for six more weeks of winter. The Los Angeles Times reports that other groundhogs offered a different forecast, which you might consider irrelevant—after all, there’s an official groundhog for this job, and he’s already made his views clear. But the disputed forecast does raise an urgent question: Just how much can we trust this meteorological Marmota monax?

According to a 2001 study in the College Mathematics Journal, “Phil’s long-range weather prognostications are much better than some may think.” The National Geographic Society, for example, claims that Phil’s predictions have been right just 28 percent of the time. But the authors’ analysis, “based on local records of minimum and maximum daily temperatures since 1950,” demonstrated that Punxsutawney Phil has made the right call more than 70 percent of the time. Those of us hoping for an early spring might find that number disheartening, but remember: Phil has a lot of competition nowadays, so it’s not hard to get a second opinion.