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Groundhog Day, Super Bowl coincide

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Many hope that Punxsutawney Phil's forecast is the same as it was in 2013 - no shadow, early spring. (Source: MGN photos) Many hope that Punxsutawney Phil's forecast is the same as it was in 2013 - no shadow, early spring. (Source: MGN photos)
Punxsutawney Phil is the most famous of several varmints used to predict the start of spring. (Courtesy of Punxsutawney Groundhog Club) Punxsutawney Phil is the most famous of several varmints used to predict the start of spring. (Courtesy of Punxsutawney Groundhog Club)

(RNN) - The most famous furry weather forecaster, Punxsutawney Phil, emerged from Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, PA, Sunday morning, saw his shadow and predicted a longer winter.

Those who suffered from the severe winter were hoping that Phil's forecast is the same as it was in 2013 - no shadow, early spring - but Phil did not comply. Since his prediction started in 1887, Phil has never predicted early spring in consecutive years.

According to tradition, if Phil sees his shadow, winter will last six more weeks. If he doesn't see his shadow, spring will come early.

Later in the day - nearly 12 hours later, to be exact - at 6:30 p.m. EST, another revered winter tradition will kick off, coinciding with Groundhog Day for the first time in its history.

The Denver Broncos will face off against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Fortunately for those attending Sunday's events, the Sunday forecast is in their favor - subzero temperatures will not be in attendance. According to several forecasts, including one by the Associated Press, temperatures in the northeast will be seasonable and dry.

Prognosticator or pretender?

Despite the fanfare, Phil fails to accurately foretell when winter's chill will end, claims National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center.

According to government data, since 1993, the U.S. national temperature has been above normal 10 times in February and 11 times in March, below normal six times in February and three times in March, and near normal three times in February and five times in March.

"It really isn't a 'bright' idea to take a measure such as a groundhog's shadow and use it as a predictive meteorological tool for the entire United States," the group stated.

Plus, an animal rights group questions the ethics of subjecting a groundhog to stress for a flawed forecast.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals characterizes the handling of Punxsutawney Phil as inhumane, as the animal is on constant display and not able to hibernate for the winter. The group has asked that Phil be retired.

"We think that using a cyber shadow-detector is a great alternative to yanking a frightened groundhog out of a fake burrow every February and waving him around in front of a boisterous crowd as cameras flash in his eyes," PETA noted. "Groundhogs avoid human contact and spend their days digging and burrowing. In February, they should be midway through their winter hibernation, not dodging the paparazzi."

In response to PETA's challenge, Pennsylvania's Lafayette College created a robot that can detect shadows.

Phil fanatics

For the people of Punxsutawney, PA, Groundhog Day is more than just a day.

Accurate or not, Punxsutawney Phil's prognostications have put the city, touted as the Weather Capital of the World, on the map. And Punxsutawney puts its best furry face forward every February.

According to The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil is attended by a group of top-hatted men called The Inner Circle, local dignitaries who are responsible for the maintenance of Phil and the planning of the Groundhog Day events.

There are a full schedule of events surrounding Groundhog Day, including breakfast with Phil and a Groundhog Ball.

According to visitPA.com, crowds at Gobbler's Knob has numbered as high as 30,000, and they predict a high numbers of Phil fanatics this year because Feb. 2 falls on a weekend.

History of the 'hog

The Groundhog Day celebration began with the Germans, Pennsylvania's earliest settlers who brought with them the legend of Candlemas Day, the Christian festival of lights which marks the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox. 

The legend states, "For as the sun shines on Candlemas day, so far will the snow swirl in May..." The settlers found that plentiful groundhogs "were the most intelligent and sensible animal to carry on the legend of Candlemas Day."

Punxsutawney has been celebrating Groundhog Day since 1886, according to the groundhog club website. The groundhog himself was named after King Phillip.

However, animals at dozens of other locales also predict the weather on Groundhog Day.

Outside of Pennsylvania, celebrations occur in Maryland; Marion, Ohio, with Buckeye Chuck; and at Wiarton, Ontario.

Birmingham, AL, has Birmingham Bill, a groundhog that delivers its prediction at the Birmingham Zoo. Atlanta has General Beauregard Lee, Raleigh, NC has Sir Walter Wally.

Paula the Penguin from Louisville, KY, also provides a Groundhog Day prediction, although she is most renowned for defecating on the state Senate floor.

Woodstock, IL, outside of Chicago, also has a vibrant Groundhog day celebration, as that city was the location where the 1993 movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray was filmed.

Events at Woodstock include a woodcarving demonstration, a symposium to discuss the deeper meaning of the movie, a third-grade art contest, a dinner and dance and the naming of a King and Queen, according to the Woodstock Groundhog Day website.

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