Six more weeks of winter? Groundhog says so
It’s fascinating all of the ways that people use to predict the weather…but, a groundhog? Folklore has been used for generations to judge the weather, and one of the longest-standing weather prognosticators still working today is that regent of rodent royalty, Punxsutawney Phil. Phil is said to predict wintry conditions for six more weeks or an early arrival of spring, depending on whether he casts a shadow at first emergence from his burrow or doesn’t, respectively. That is a story we all know, but how did a groundhog come to wield so much fame and prognosticating power?
According to the Old Farmers Almanac, the date of Groundhog Day—February 2—is what is known in astronomy as a “cross-quarter day”—that is, it occurs at the midpoint between a solstice and an equinox. In this case, in the Northern Hemisphere, these are the winter solstice and the spring equinox.
This halfway point in the season—when there are about six weeks left until the official start of spring—is often symbolically seen as when light and life begin to win over the cold and darkness. It has been recognized by many cultures for generations by various names, including the Celtic holiday Imbolc, and Candlemas, the Christian festival of light. Celebrations often included looking to nature and animals for signs of the coming season. In France and England, bears brought the forecast; in Germany, it was badgers.
When German immigrants arrived in Pennsylvania in the 1800s, they found no badgers, but there were plenty of groundhogs. The old ways were adapted for a new land and, eventually, Punxsutawney Phil became the stuff of legend.
While we’re big fans of tradition, don’t be too disappointed at Phil’s prediction this year. Phil is said to have seen his shadow as he emerged from his burrow on a snowy Tuesday morning to perform his Groundhog Day duties. Don’t be too disappointed if his prediction isn’t what you wanted to hear. Phil’s pretty enduring, but he isn’t much of a weatherman: He’s correct only about 39 percent of the time.
Shortly after this year’s prediction was revealed, one of the members of the inner circle shared a message he said Phil had told him earlier in the day: “After winter, you’re looking forward to one of the most beautiful and brightest springs you’ve ever seen.”
Believing in Groundhog Day doesn’t seem as crazy these days as the things that are going on in Washington, D.C. and around the country and the world.
One thing that we can be sure of is that spring will arrive on Saturday, March 20. This occurs with the spring equinox, when the Sun crosses the celestial equator while heading from south to north.
With the official start of spring still weeks away, be prepared for what Mother Nature throws your way whether it be sunshine and warmth or cold temperatures and more snow.
Just be patient, spring is a day closer than it was yesterday.
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