11 Punxsutawney Phil Facts for Groundhog Day

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Punxsutawney Phil is getting ready to make his Groundhog Day prediction about how much winter we've got left. Here's a closer look at the rodent we trust for weather prognostication.

1. He has been around since 1887.

Punxsutawney Phil with his groundhog inner circle.
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Punxsutawney Phil has been in charge of telling us how long winter will wear on (and, conversely, when spring will finally bloom) since 1887, all based on whether or not he sees his shadow on the morning of February 2nd (if he sees his shadow, we're in for six more weeks of winter, if he doesn't, spring will come early). There are no other Phils. There's just the one. No, really.

2. It's "groundhog punch" that keeps him so young.

Punxsutawney Phil with a carrier.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Phil stays so young by way of a magical "Groundhog Punch" that he's fed every summer at the annual Groundhog Picnic (just a sip) that apparently extends his life for another seven years. So even if Phil misses out on six annual sips, he's still good to go with his weather reporting and newsmaking for the time being. That's some magical punch—the kind that foresees potential snags for nearly a full decade.

3. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's inner circle is responsible for Phil.

Groundhog handler John Griffiths holds Punxsutawney Phil in 2012.
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Phil obviously can't get his elixir without a little help, which is where the so-called "Inner Circle" comes into play. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle doesn't just hold fast to Phil's meds and administer them to their beloved groundhog; they also take care of Phil for the entire year, plan each year's big ceremony in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and sport some truly styling top hats and tuxedos at each ceremony.

4. There are 15 members of the Inner Circle.

Members of Punxsutawney's 'Inner Circle.'
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Inner Circle currently has 15 members (16 if you count Phil himself), including President Bill Deeley, who has been in the circle since 1986. The members all have individual nicknames that vaguely tie into their careers (Tom Dunkel, the so-called "Shingle Shaker," is a roofing contractor) or weather phenomena (there's an "Iceman," a "Big Chill," and even a "Thunder Conductor").

5. Phil lives in the town library.

The town sign of Gobbler's Knob
Eddie~S, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When Phil is not busy predicting the weather at Gobbler's Knob, a rural area about two miles outside of Punxsutawney proper, he lives in the town library.

6. He has a wife, Phyllis.

Wooden groundhog statue
Doug Kerr, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Phil lives in that library with his wife, Phyllis. Yes, Punxsutawney Phil has his own little groundhog wife, and her name is Phyllis. It's almost too adorable to be believed.

7. He's a jetsetter.

Punxsutawney Phil visits New York City in 2001.
Spencer Platt/Newsmakers

Despite enjoying life in the library and doing other groundhog-appropriate things, Phil has done his fair share of traveling over the course of his career. In recent years, he has met big celebrities and public figures like Oprah and President Ronald Reagan.

8. He was reportedly named after "King Phillip."

Punxsutawney Phil with his groundhog inner circle.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

For many years, the groundhog from Punxsutawney was called "Br'er Groundhog," which doesn't quite have the same ring to it. The official Groundhog Club site says that he was named after "King Phillip," but odds are that the actual namesake was the UK's Prince Philip. In 1953, Punxsutawney buried a pair of groundhogs they'd named Elizabeth and Philip, after the newly crowned English queen and her husband. Punxsutawney's famed groundhog was first officially named Phil a few years later in 1961, and records suggest it was a holdover name from the earlier Philip.

9. He speaks groundhogese.

close-up of Punxsutawney Phil
Penn State, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Phil speaks a special language—it's called Groundhogese—which is what he uses to communicate his shadow-finding to the Inner Circle President, who then announces it to the world.

10. He was fiercely anti-Prohibition.

Members of Punxsutawney's 'Inner Circle' tap on Punxsutawney Phil's door as they entice him out February 2.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Phil apparently likes more than just his Groundhog Punch: The groundhog quite memorably announced during Prohibition that, if he were kept from drinking the hard stuff, there would be 60 weeks of winter. (But not even Punxsutawney Phil can plunge the world into over a year of winter, desire for booze aside.)

11. His predictions are always correct—just sometimes they're misinterpreted.

Punxsutawney Phil with a carrier.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Phil's batting average for weather predictions isn't exactly the greatest: A record of his findings shows that his shadow-based predictions have only been right about 64.4 percent of the time. (Most recently, he saw his shadow in 2017 and 2018, but both years had record high temperatures for February.) But don't blame Phil!

"Unfortunately, there have been years where the president has misinterpreted what Phil said," retired handler Ron Ploucha told PennLive. "Because Phil's never wrong. Phil's prediction is 100 percent correct, and we blame the variants on the president's interpretation of Phil's prediction."

A version of this article first appeared in 2014.

5 Fast Facts About the Spring Equinox

iStock.com/AHPhotoswpg
iStock.com/AHPhotoswpg

The northern hemisphere has officially survived a long winter of Arctic temperatures, bomb cyclones, and ice tsunamis. Spring starts March 20, which means warmer weather and longer days are around the corner. To celebrate the spring equinox, hear are some facts about the event.

1. The spring equinox arrives at 5:58 p.m.

The first day of spring is today, but the spring equinox will only be here for a brief time. At 5:58 p.m. Eastern Time, the Sun will be perfectly in line with the equator, which results in both the northern and southern hemispheres receiving equal amounts of sunlight throughout the day. After the vernal equinox has passed, days will start to become shorter for the Southern Hemisphere and longer up north.

2. The Equinox isn't the only time you can balance an egg.

You may have heard the myth that you can balance on egg on its end during the vernal equinox, and you may have even tried the experiment in school. The idea is that the extra gravitational pull from the Sun when it's over the equator helps the egg stand up straight. While it is possible to balance an egg, the trick has nothing to do with the equinox: You can make an egg stand on its end by setting it on a rough surface any day of the year.

3. Not every place gets equal night and day.

The equal night and day split between the northern and southern hemispheres isn't distributed evenly across all parts of the world. Though every region gets approximately 12 hours of sunlight the day of the vernal equinox, some places get a little more (the day is 12 hours and 15 minute in Fairbanks, Alaska), and some get less (it's 12 hours and 6 minutes in Miami).

4. The name means Equal Night.

The word equinox literally translates to equal ("equi") and night ("nox") in Latin. The term vernal means "new and fresh," and comes from the Latin word vernus for "of spring."

5. The 2019 spring equinox coincides with a supermoon.

On March 20, the day the Sun lines up with equator, the Moon will reach the closest point to Earth in its orbit. The Moon will also be full, making it the third supermoon of 2019. A full moon last coincided with the first day of spring on March 20, 1981, and it the two events won't occur within 24 hours of each other again until 2030.

A Full Pink Moon Is Coming in April

Ana Luisa Santo, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Ana Luisa Santo, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Mark your calendars for Friday, April 19 and get ready to snap some blurry pictures of the sky on your way to work. A full pink moon will appear early that morning, according to a calendar published by The Old Farmer's Almanac.

Considering that the full moon cycle is completed every 29.5 days, the April full moon will be the fourth full moon of 2019. Despite its name, the surface of the moon doesn't actually appear rosy. The name refers to the wild ground phlox, a type of pink wildflower, that tends to sprout in the U.S. and Canada around this time of year. It's also sometimes called an egg moon, fish moon, or sprouting grass moon.

What does the Full Pink Moon mean?

The April full moon might be a bit of a misnomer, but it still plays a pretty important role in the Christian tradition. The date on which the full pink moon appears has historically been used to determine when Easter will be observed. The holiday always falls on the Sunday following the first full moon that appears after the spring equinox. However, if the full moon falls on a Sunday, Easter will be held the following Sunday.

This rule dates back to 325 C.E., when a group of Christian churches called the First Council of Nicaea decided that the light of the full moon would help guide religious pilgrims as they traveled ahead of the holiday. Since the full moon will be visible on April 19 this year, Easter will be held on April 21.

When to see the full pink moon

The best time to view this April full moon is around 4:12 a.m. on the West Coast and 7:12 a.m. on the East Coast. The exact time will vary depending on your location. For a more specific estimate, head to the Almanac's website and type in your city and state or ZIP code.

If you happen to miss this spectacle because you're enjoying a full night’s sleep, don't fret too much. A full flower moon will be arriving in May.

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