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 that German settlers brought 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”. Here in New York City, our local weather-groundhog is Charles G. Hogg – more popularly known as “Staten Island Chuck”. This year, neither groundhog saw its shadow and both are predicting an early spring.
Long-range forecasts can be a tricky business, so we will have to wait and see what actually happens. Either way, the spring equinox is 47 days away.