Punxsutawney Phil forecasts early spring: What's his track record?

Two groundhogs did not see their shadows on Groundhog Day, predicting an early spring. Will they be right?

Keith Srakocic/AP
Groundhog Club co-handler John Griffiths holds Punxsutawney Phil during the annual celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. The handlers say the furry rodent has failed to see his shadow, meaning he's 'predicted' an early spring.

Did he or didn't he? That's the question groundhog and weather enthusiasts woke up wondering Tuesday. 

For the winter weary, rest assured. Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog famous for his weather predictions, did not see his shadow, a sign that spring will start early this year.

The Pennsylvania resident, Phil, was joined by New York City's groundhog in predicting an early spring. Staten Island Chuck also didn't see his shadow.

But how accurate can a rodent's weather predictions be?

Punxsutawney Phil – or at least some groundhog dubbed Phil for the year – has been at it since 1886 according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club spokeswoman Katie Donald. That makes this year, "Phil's 130th prognostication," the club says.

According to legend, if the groundhog sees his shadow, expect six more weeks of cold, stormy winter. But if he doesn't, expect warmer weather because spring is a-coming.

But according to a 2015 Washington Post investigation, don't count on Punxsutawney Phil. From 1984 to 2014, the average daily temperatures across the country during the six weeks following Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, were only marginally in line with the groundhog's predictions. 

Technically the rodent was right more often than not in some cities, the Post's Kennedy Elliott and Shelly Tan admitted. But, they added, because temperature changes vary across the country and weather patterns aren't uniform, Phil is bound to be right somewhere.

So should we trust Phil and Chuck this year?

With El Niño carrying warmer weather to much of the Northern United States, for some it's no surprise that the groundhogs predict an early spring. New England has already seen record and near-record temperatures for the month and February 2016 is only a day old. 

On Monday, Boston temperatures almost reached the 1989 record high of 66, topping out at 65 degrees Fahrenheit. But in Providence, 65 degrees did beat the previous record of 64, set the same year as the Boston record.

And in Punxsutawney Phil's home state of Pennsylvania, it won't be difficult for it to feel like spring after Winter Storm Jonas walloped the region, busting through snowfall records

But the truth of groundhogs' predictions may still depend on region. The Weather Channel meteorologists predict that most of the continental US will see warmer weather over the next three months, but Southeastern states may feel the chill linger.

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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