Friday, January 31, 2014

Is Spring Just Around the Corner?

Have you had enough of winter? Are you longing for a mild, sunny Spring day?  Then you may want to pay attention to Punxsutawney Phil’s forecast on Sunday, February 2nd, otherwise known as Groundhog Day.

The tradition of Groundhog Day was begun in the early 19th century in southeastern and central parts of Pennsylvania.  The German settlers in America brought ancient European weather lore that relied on a badger or sacred bear to predict the weather in the coming season.  Groundhogs may look like little bears, but they are actually members of the rodent family and are related to squirrels, chipmunks and prairie dogs.  The New World had plenty of groundhogs to serve as a substitute, and they often peeked groggily from their underground burrows after a long period of hibernation around the beginning of February.  This activity was probably combined with the Christian Candlemas Day, usually celebrated on February 2nd.  An English poem possibly serves as the basis for the groundhog’s ability to predict the weather:

    If Candlemas be fair and bright,

    Winter has another flight.
    If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
    Winter will not come again.
The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, PA, a small town 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.  The resident groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, peeks out of his burrow early in the morning on February 2nd, with a crowd of thousands watching closely for a sign.  If the day is sunny and Phil sees his shadow and returns to his burrow, there will be 6 more weeks of winter.  If the day is cloudy, Phil will not retreat to his burrow and spring will be arriving soon! The first official record of Phil’s prediction was in 1887; 2014 will bring Phil’s 122nd prediction.

So you may want to tune in to a news source before you get set for the Super Bowl on Sunday to see what Phil has to say. But don’t take it too seriously—according to the StormFax Weather Almanac and records kept since 1887, Phil’s weather predictions have an accuracy rate of only 39%!

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