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Is Punxsutawney Phil responding to global warming?

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Jason Cohn/REUTERS

(Read caption) Weather-prognosticating groundhog Punxsutawney Phil makes his annual prediction on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on the 123rd Groundhog Day, February 2, 2009. According to Groundhog Day officials, the large rodent "saw" his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter.

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As dawn broke on Monday morning, officials in cities and towns across the United States and Canada, engaged in an annual ritual of attempting to predict the weather by harassing a marmot.

According to the website of the Punxsutawney (Pa.) Groundhog Club, the most famous of these marmots, Punxsutawney Phil, emerged from his burrow (or more accurately, was dragged out of a box), surveyed the 13,000-person crowd that had gathered to see him, and uttered something in the obscure language of Groundhogese to Club President Bill Cooper, who then proclaimed that the large rodent had seen his shadow and we would therefore be getting six more weeks of winter.

This isn't particularly surprising. Since 1886, when the tradition first began in the western Pennsylvania borough, Phil has presaged an early spring only 14 times.

But – as another signal of our warming climate – nine of those times have occurred since 1975.

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