2 - Groundhog Day, a time when an animal,
also known as a woodchuck, should emerge from his burrow after a long winter
sleep to look for his shadow. If he sees his shadow, he regards it as an omen
of six more weeks of bad weather and returns to his hole. If the day is cloudy
and, hence, shadowless, he takes it as a sign of warm weather and stays above
February 2 has been recognized
for centuries as a time when climatic changes are most pronounced.
The story begins with astronomers analyzing the skies, and it
proceeds to our analyzing the behavior of a lowly creature that spends much
of its time underground. The cross-quarter day should actually be called
the beginning of spring. Daylight hours are noticeably longer. The Celts
called it Imbolg or the feast of St. Brigit, who was born at sunrise
on a threshold, representing the transition to spring. Brigit was god of
fire and fertility for the Celts. Later, Christians dedicated the day
to St. Brigit. Legend has it that she was born at sunrise on the threshold,
neither inside or outside, thus representing the transition to spring. She
had milk from a supernatural cow, dried her dresses on sunbeams, and everything
around her glowed. In Scotland the cross-quarter date was celebrated as
Candlemas, the legendary day when Christ was first presented in the temple.
It was said that on Candlemas, the weather pattern for the year was apparent,
as signified by their well-known rhyme which says that if “Candlemas
is fair and clear, there will be two winters in the year”.
All weather watchers
hoped for a cloudy day so the weather would improve. Weather prophets suggest
a basis for this. Clear weather in early February usually results from cold,
clear, stable air masses that are likely to persist, and there will be sustained
cold temperatures. This theory of weather predicting became associated with
hibernating animals, such as bears and hedgehogs, coming out of the ground
to see if they cast shadows.
settlers in the area known today as Punxsutawney Pennsylvania, about 80 miles
northeast of Pittsburgh, are responible for transforming Imbolg, St.
Brigit's Day, and Candlemas into what we refer to as Groundhog Day. The
editor of a local paper publicized the custom back in 1886. The next year
he formed the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club to observe the Punxsutawney groundhog.
For many years the exact location of this teller of weather was kept a secret.
In wasn’t until 1966 that Gobbler's Knob, a hill just outside of town, was
disclosed as the groundhog's home. Since then there has been a great following
of print, radio and television reporters present to flash the world about
Punxsutawney Phil's prediction. Hordes of people travel to this little town
to join the celebration during the first two days of February.
Sun Prairie, Wisc., a town that is rich in G-hogs, declared itself to be the
official "Groundhog Capital of the World" in 1950. Sun Prairie
Jimmy and his predecessors have been on the job for over fifty years.
If you are inclined to
believe the prediction of a groundhog, you'll do better on February 2nd than
believers did 20 years ago and before. Whether you check a local critter,
or rely on one of the more famous prognosticators like Punxsutawney Phil
and Sun Prairie Jimmy, you have a 59 percent chance that the little guy will
The National Climactic Data
Center concludes that the animals' predictions since 1887 had an overall accuracy
rate of just 39 percent. Over the last 20 years, however, they have become
more skillful and have raised their average correctness by 20 percent. Nice
going Phil and Jimmy!
Facts about the prognosticating rodent
According to the School of Veterinary Medicine,
* Groundhog and woodchuck are names of the same
animal. Related to squirrels,
they can climb trees, and they can swim.
* The groundhog's internal clock is believed to
be affected by changes in the amount of daylight. Hormonal responses change
the production of melatonin and are thought to be the signal to wake up.
How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if
a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Answer to the classic question: About 700
pounds. A wildlife biologist measured the inside volume of a typical woodchuck
burrow; he estimated that if the burrow were filled with wood instead of
dirt, the industrious animal would have chucked about 700 pounds' worth.
Of course, the woodchuck doesn't chuck wood. They will chew on wood, but
they are not adept at moving timber, especially when compared to beavers.
official site of Punxsutawney groundhog club
STORMFAX weather Almanac