Punxsutawney Phil, the celebrated groundhog, was taken out of his burrow this weekend to reveal that spring would come early this year. Good news for those Americans who have suffered from the extremes of weather of late, but things look less good for those who prefer a more scientific approach.
Thousands gather each year at Gobbler's Knob (there's a mouthful) in Pennsylvania for the annual event made world-famous by the film Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray. There, if the creature is deemed to have seen his shadow, winter carries on until March. If not, spring will arrive early.
The Stormfax Weather Almanac, however, has most records since 1887 and claims that the animals have only a 39 per cent accuracy rate. And a recent study by the National Climate Data Centre at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded that "Phil's forecasts are, on average, inaccurate. The groundhog has shown no talent for predicting the arrival of spring, especially in recent years." It adds that other, rival groundhogs, "fared no better".