Groundhog Day: How a rodent predicts weather in North America

By: |
February 3, 2021 3:17 PM

Groundhog Day became popular after a 1993 film of the same name starring Andie MacDowell and Bill Murray hit theatres.

Groundhogs DayHandler John Griffiths introduces Punxsutawney Phil to the crowd at Gobbler’s Knob on the 131st Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, U.S. February 2, 2017. (REUTERS/Alan Freed)

The United States and Canada has a unique tradition that it follows to receive weather forecast. Although not a full-proof system, but an annual tradition is held in these countries that experience harshest winters. To determine whether the season will be prolonged or will end soon giving way to spring.

In the US, the tradition is held at Punxsutawney town in the Pennsylvania state where a groundhog predicts the weather, also marked as the Groundhog Day. This year, winter will be longer says the groundhog, called “Punxsutawney Phil”

Groundhog Day became a rage after a 1993 film of the same name starring Andie MacDowell and Bill Murray hit theatres.

How the rodent predicts weather

The US state has a very unique way of understanding about weather from the rodent. On February 2, if the day is sunny, the groundhog appears from its hiding and sees its own shadow. If so happens it means there will be six more weeks of winter. However, if the day is cloudy and the rodent’s shadow is not formed, it means there will be milder weather in the weeks to come indicating the departure of winters and arrival of spring.

As this year the rodent’s shadow was visible, it can be assumed by the one who trusts Punxsutawney Phil that the winters will last for another month and a half in the US.

The tradition has its roots in Europe. During the Middle Ages, badgers and bears used to come out of their burrows on this day to judge the weather. Germs who migrated to the US carried the custom with them but badgers were replaced by the groundhog.

The Groundhog Day clashes with Candlesmas, a Christian festival observed to known about weather forecasts. Lore has it that if there is clear weather on Candlemas, then there will be a prolonged winter.

Celebrations of Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania

The event is celebrated with much importance in this US state and attracts media attention as well. Newspapers on Tuesday reported how Punxsutawney Phil showed up interrupting its hibernation in the morning before sunrise to tell about the weather.

The tradition is quite a spectacle to witness with so many people believing a rodent’s predictions. A group of people wearing a tux and top hats come before a crowd cheering ‘Phil’, the rodent’s name and announced their interpretation of its behaviour that morning. Phil’s fans, more than 15, 000 attended the vent online this year due to the pandemic situation.

On February 2 morning, the furry critter was woken at 7,25 am t Gobbler’s Know where it was hibernations to see whether it could see its shadow, an Associated Press report said. Later he predictions were made as after winters the state will witness the brightest and most beautiful spring it has ever seen.

Phil’s accuracy

Phil has not been successful in most occasions. It was accurate less than 40 per cent of the time and had predicted long winters in 100 occasions. Last year it predicted early spring. Rodents have been giving its predictions for the last 135 years.

Scientifically, a groundhog emerges from its burrow depending on the amount of fat it had stored when it went for hibernation.

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