Longer winter forecast…by a rodent


A groundhog on the Laval University campus in Quebec, Canada (photo Simon Pierre Barrette for Wikipedia)

HOLT, Fla., Feb. 2, 2018—Punxsutawney Phil issued his 132nd winter prediction for this season from Pennsylvania today:  six more weeks of winter.

Proclaimed as “the Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of All Prognosticators,” Phil has seen his shadow, and as everyone knows, that means more winter.

His prediction was translated from Groundhogese by the president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle in Gobbler’s Knob, Pa., because as everyone also knows, groundhogs can’t talk.

Phil predicted, in very bad verse (forgivable because he IS a rodent, after all):

“My faithful followers
your hands (and my paws) are getting cold
So here’s my forecast, not lead but gold:
I see my royal shadow!
Six more weeks of winter to go!”

According to the Club website, Phil’s predictions are right 100 percent of the time.

However… according to the Stormfax Weather Almanac website, Phil’s forecast has been right only 39 percent of the time.

In 132 years of predictions, Phil has seen his shadow 104 times.

How it began

Located 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, the name Punxsutawney comes from the Delaware Indians, the first settlers of the area around 1723, meaning “the town of sandflies.”

Germans settlers arriving in the 1700s brought with them the tradition of celebrating Candlemass Day, the midpoint between winter and spring solstice.  Tradition has it if the day was fair, there would be a longer winter:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another light.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

The first official Groundhog Day celebration was Feb. 2, 1886.  The prediction was no shadow, therefore, spring was just around the corner.

The first trip to Gobbler’s Knob where Phil lives was the next year, and he saw his shadow.

The prediction ceremony begins at daybreak, when members of the Inner Circle wake Phil up to hear his forecast (which might help explain the bad verse).

And don’t be fooled by other groundhog prognosticators—others are just imposters, according to the club website.

But for Phil, it’s just another Groundhog’s Day.

Stephanie Holcombe

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