Today is Groundhog Day, the midpoint of the winter season.
On this day, according to legend, the weather conditions for the second half of winter can be predicted by the behavior of a prognosticating groundhog. If the groundhog sees its shadow after emerging from its burrow, 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 grew out of the old world tradition of Candlemas brought by German settlers to Pennsylvania in the 1880s. Today, many communities across the U.S. and Canada continue this age-old ritual with their own special groundhogs.
The most famous of these furry forecasters is Punxsutawney Phil from Pennsylvania – he was portrayed in the 1993 film, “Groundhog Day”. This year, despite an overcast sky, Phil saw his shadow and is calling for six more weeks of wintry conditions.
In New York City, our local weather-groundhog is Charles G. Hogg – more popularly known as “Staten Island Chuck”. Coming out of his burrow this morning, he did not see his shadow and is predicting an early spring for the Big Apple.
Long-range forecasts are a tricky business, so a difference of opinion is not that uncommon. Either way, the spring equinox is 46 days away.