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Staten Island Chuck vs. Punxsutawney Phil: Who's the Better Forecaster?

By Nicole Levy | February 1, 2016 7:20am | Updated on January 31, 2017 2:47pm
 Staten Island Chuck is a far better weather forecaster than Punxsutawney Phil, DNAinfo's analysis shows.
Staten Island Chuck is a far better weather forecaster than Punxsutawney Phil, DNAinfo's analysis shows.
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DNAinfo/Nick Rizzi; Getty/Alex Wong

As Mayor Bill de Blasio gears up for a re-election fight against challengers like State Sen. Tony Avella and real estate developer Paul J. Massey Jr. this November, we at DNAinfo have turned our eyes toward a rivalry far more savage and imminent.

We're talking about the competition between hirsute meteorologists Punxsutawney Phil and Staten Island Chuck.

Both groundhogs take their star turns Feb. 2, when spectators will gather to watch them predict the next six weeks' weather.

A groundhog who emerges from his burrow and scurries back when he "spots his shadow," as tradition has it, is said to predict more winter weather. A groundhog who stays above ground, with no shadow in view, calls for an early spring.

Phil, star of the 1993 Bill Murray movie "Groundhog Day," is more famous. But is he the more accurate forecaster? 

To find out, we combed through almost 20 years of records from the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club and the New York Times archives to find out which predictions each groundhog made. Then we compared the predictions to February historical temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In the tale of the tape between our two woodchuck challengers, Staten Island Chuck wins by a landslide. 

His predictions since 1992 — excepting seven years for which DNAinfo could find no historical record of both groundhogs' forecasts — were accurate 68.4 percent of the time, according to our calculations. Phil's forecasts were accurate 42.1 percent of the years we examined.

We found Chuck to be the far more optimistic woodchuck; only two out of 19 years did he retreat into his burrow. You could hardly fault him for a melancholic attitude in 2014, when he was expected to perform his duties after falling from de Blasio's gloved hands. The pessimist of the two, Phil foretold six weeks more winter 13 years out of those 19.

Of course, it's common knowledge that Chuck and Phil have been played by various groundhogs over the decades, but the role comes with a record and reputation that its inheritors must uphold, and we stand by the validity of our analysis.

For an in-depth look at Chuck and Phil's records, check out our chart below: