If you look at years of Groundhog Day data, a scary trend emerges.

Groundhog Day is, unquestionably, America's favorite holiday.

Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images.


It can sometimes seem that, for millions of children and adults alike from Maine to Hawaii, the only day on the calendar that matters is February 2.

It's a day that seeks to answer the single most pressing question on our collective mind: Will winter end a little early, or just, like, at the normal time?

The magic of Groundhog Day harkens back to the late 19th century — a simpler time — when our nation's most sophisticated mode of climate modeling involved pulling a terrified rodent out of the ground and watching its facial expressions for about 45 seconds.

...and I'm about to ruin it.

Photo via iStock.

This gives me no pleasure (OK, a little bit of pleasure). But it needs to be said.

The National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) pulled data for all the Groundhog Days since 1988. For each year, it tracked whether Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, and whether temperatures in February and March of that year were above or below average.

After just a cursory look at the results, two things become immediately clear:

1. Groundhog Day is completely useless as a predictor of whether spring will come early.

2. To the extent that the holiday contains any useful information whatsoever, Groundhog Day is actually a harbinger of planetary doom.

Let's take these one by one:

1. Turns out, Punxsutawney Phil pretty much always sees his shadow.

"Yeah, so I do lift." Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images.

Groundhog Day operates on a pretty simple premise: Phil sees his shadow, winter stays around for six more weeks. Phil doesn't see his shadow, winter goes away earlier than usual. You'd probably expect a roughly 50-50 split.

And you'd be wrong.

Between 1988 and 2016, the purportedly clairvoyant groundhog has taken an obvious gander at his own shadow 20 out of 29 years. If you go back to 1887, his record gets even worse. Since the very first Groundhog Day on record, Phil has seen his shadow 102 times, and not seen it only 18 times (there is no data for 10 of those years).

Groundhogs only live two to eight years on average, so this data tracks across dozens of Phils.

If, between the late '80s and today, we'd been dealt a series of solidly long winters, maybe you could make a case for Phil's psychic prowess. But that's the opposite of what's been happening.

And that's where the doom comes in.

2. In the last 28 years, regardless of whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, spring mostly just always comes early. And that's not a good sign.

Death is coming for us all. Photo by Kor!An/Wikimedia Commons.

We've had a warmer-than-average March 22 out of the last 29 years. Globally, as of 2016, March 2016 was the hottest March on record.

While there's no one on Earth who would say "no" to a St. Patrick's Day barbecue, the ruthless, relentless advance of spring is also a pretty stark illustration that climate change is real and getting worse.

In case you need to be reminded why that's scary, here's a pretty good 'n terrifying summary.

It's not the groundhog's fault. He's tried hard to see-his-shadow our way out of this. But it hasn't worked.

No, it can't. Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images.

Unfortunately, that means we have to do more of the heavy lifting. A lot of that is going to depend on our ability to meet the ambitious goals laid out in the landmark climate agreement that was signed in Paris in 2015, like limiting global temperature rise to "well-below" two degrees Celsius.

The problem is, for the countries that signed on, the commitment is voluntary.

Making sure we hold up our end of the bargain means electing politicians that not only believe in man-made climate change, but actually want to do something about it and pressuring them so that they actually do.

If we manage to accomplish that, Groundhog Day can go back to being what it was always meant to be: a silly holiday that doesn't mean a damn thing.

Photo by Archie Carpenter/Getty Images.

Not the kind of day you'd want to experience over and over and over again, but, you know, not bad for a day in February!

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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