USA TODAY International Edition
Pandemic to shadow Punxsutawney Phil
It’s that time of year ... again. Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most famous groundhog, will be coaxed from his burrow in western Pennsylvania early Tuesday as a pandemic- stressed nation watches to find out whether we’ll have an early spring or six more weeks of cold and snow.
According to legend, if it’s sunny and Phil sees his shadow, the scared groundhog returns to his burrow and the U. S. will endure six more weeks of winter. But if it’s cloudy when the groundhog emerges on Feb. 2, the critter won’t see his shadow and will leave his burrow, meaning winter will soon end and an early start to spring is coming.
As with everything else during the pandemic, the ceremony will be different this year: “There will not be any inperson attendance or guests on the grounds as the potential COVID risks to overcome are too great,” the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club said in a statement. The event will be streamed live on Groundhog. org.
The weather in Punxawtaney could very well be cloudy with possible snow showers on Tuesday morning, according to weather. com. Temperatures are expected to be in the 20s.
If the forecast for cloudy conditions holds, then Phil probably would not see his shadow this year, weather. com said, meaning an early spring.
Since 1887, the groundhog has seen his shadow 104 times, to forecast a longer winter, and not seen it 20 times, to predict an early spring. ( There is no record of the prediction for 10 times in the late 19th century.)
How accurate is Phil? Not very. “There is no predictive skill for the groundhog during the most recent years of the analysis,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
On average over the past 10 years, Phil has gotten it right 40% of the time, NOAA said.
While Groundhog Day is just some midwinter fun, climate records say winter probably isn’t over, according to NOAA. Climatologically speaking, the three coldest months of the year are December, January and February, so winter typically still has a way to go when the groundhog emerges on Feb. 2.
Although Phil is the most famous hog, other furry forecasters include West Virginia’s French Creek Freddie, Georgia’s Gen. Beauregard Lee, Ohio’s Buckeye Chuck, North Carolina’s Sir Walter Wally, Louisiana’s Cajun Groundhog, Alabama’s Smith Lake Jake, Wisconsin’s Jimmy and New York’s Staten Island Chuck ( full name: Charles G. Hogg).
Groundhog Day’s origins lie in the ancient European celebration of Candlemas, which is a point midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox – the exact midpoint of astronomical winter.
Superstition has it that fair weather predicted a stormy and cold second half to winter, as noted in this Old English saying:
“If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter has another flight. If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.”