Podcast: Does Punxsutawney Phil Believe in Climate Change?

Thu Feb. 3, 2011 7:00 AM EST

Climate scientists have for years complained of their inability to educate the public about the dangers of global warming.

Maybe they can learn a thing or two from Punxsutawney Phil.

The world's most famous groundhog prognosticator has little trouble getting attention for his weather predictions. And on Wednesday, the world will tune in once again to watch as Phil emerges from his home on Gobbler's Knob and looks for his shadow. [UPDATE: Phil failed to see his shadow Wednesday morning, signaling an early spring.]

Few know as much about Phil as Mike Johnston, the vice president of the groundhog's Inner Circle, and one of Phil's closest confidants. In honor of this year's Groundhog Day, Need to Know spoke with Johnston to discuss the history of Phil's predictions, the mysteries of the Inner Circle and whether Phil believes in anthropogenic climate change.

As Johnston revealed, Phil does study the work of other climatologists — but mostly for laughs.

"He's a student of weather predicting, weather forecasting, for one day," Johnston said of Phil. "He studies the models, he likes a little light reading, and maybe some humor mixed in with it. And I think that's what he gets with most other weather predictions."

This podcast was produced by Need to Know for the Climate Desk collaboration.

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