Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day, the midway point of the winter season.

According to folklore, on this particular date, the weather conditions of the second half of winter can be forecast by the shadow of a prognosticating groundhog.  Upon emerging from its burrow, if the groundhog sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.  If it does not see its shadow, then spring will arrive early.

The practice of using animal behavior to predict future weather conditions goes back to ancient times.  The particular custom that we are familiar with in the United States began in 1886 with the old world traditions of German settlers in Pennsylvania. Today, many communities across the U.S. and Canada continue this age-old ritual with their own special groundhogs.

In New York City, our local weather-groundhog is Staten Island Chuck. His rival is the well-known Punxsutawney Phil from Pennsylvania.  This year, Punxsutawney Phil predicts six more weeks of winter while Staten Island Chuck is calling for an early spring.  Given the spring-like conditions that have dominated this winter so far, who can blame them for a difference of opinion.

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About Melissa Fleming

Melissa Fleming is an environmental communicator and visual artist working at the intersection of art and science. She is passionate about exploring, learning, and sharing information about the natural world. She has presented her interdisciplinary work in a variety of mediums at venues and conferences around the world.