After a bone-chilling cold spell, an early spring is on the way if Punxsutawney Phil is correct. The famous groundhog did not see his shadow on Friday morning, making a rare prediction for an early spring.
If Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most famous Groundhog, sees his shadow at daybreak and runs away, tradition holds that he has predicted that there will be six more weeks of a chilly winter. If there is no shadow, he has predicted that spring will arrive early.
The group’s predictions on average have been correct just about 35% of the time. With the law of averages and weather records for the past 100 years, that’s about as good as guessing.
The past few years of predictions have been fairly even, with the groundhog seeing his shadow in 2018, indicating six more weeks of winter, and then not seeing it in 2019, meaning an early spring. In 2020, he did not see his shadow, but then he saw it again both in 2021 and in 2022.
Even though the media-hyped Punxsutawney Phil weather prediction is the one people gather to see, the groundhog’s prediction is strangely made ahead of the big moment by the group on Gobbler’s Knob, a location close to Punxsutawney, just around 65 miles away from Pittsburgh. Although the quirky day got its start in the late 19th century, historians believe Groundhog Day stems from Candlemas, a Christian holiday that dates back to the fourth century.
Surviving records show that the idea of weather-predicting animals was introduced during Candlemas festivities held in Germany. These animals included badgers, hedgehogs, bears and foxes. Dutch groups who migrated to Pennsylvania adopted the lore of weather-predicting badgers and hedgehogs. It appears that over time, the lore shifted to include groundhogs because of Pennsylvania’s limited badger population and lack of native hedgehogs.
Although Groundhog Day is entertaining. meteorologists at the National Weather Service State College recommend that people get their weather forecasts from trained professionals.
This year, however, the public has complained that the Weather Service is about as correct as the famous Groundhog.
–Alan Goforth | MV