Groundhog Day…Six More Weeks Of Winter

By  | February 2, 2018 | Filed under: News

Groundhog Day, it’s a strange holiday based more on folklore than science. But despite the fact that most, if not all, meteorologists place little value on the rodent’s ability to predict an early spring, the annual tradition is still one that many people get excited about.

Punxsutawney Phil, undoubtably the most famous of marmots…. thousands of people each year flock to the U.S. borough as the animal is hoisted from his winter home and called upon to predict the weather.

According to legend, if a groundhog spots its shadow on Feb. 2, it will scurry back to its burrow, signalling six more weeks of winter. If there’s no shadow, an early spring is just around the corner.

But did you know…..

In Canada, Groundhog Day brings just as much excitement. Canada’s most celebrated groundhog, Wiarton Willie, last year predicted an early end to winter. Hundreds of people bundled up last February to watch the rotund rodent emerge from his burrow in Bruce County, Ont., and this year will likely be no different.

With phrases like the “polar vortex” and the “Alberta clipper” still being tossed around, many people will be rooting for our rodent friends to not see their shadows. But how accurate is the furry forecaster? Not very, according to the U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).  According to the NCDC,  “The groundhog has shown no talent for predicting the arrival of spring, especially in recent years.”

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Groundhog Day may have its origins in the Christian celebration of Candlemas Day, the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. A traditional old English rhyme associated with the day goes:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,

Come, Winter, have another flight

If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,

Go Winter, and come not again.

In Alaska, Groundhog Day has been replaced by Marmot Day. In 2009, former U.S. Governor Sarah Palin signed a bill proclaiming Feb. 2 as Marmot Day, an Alaskan holiday that celebrates frontier life.

 

Punxsutawney Phil and Wiarton Willie aren’t the only prognosticating rodents that we rely on to “predict” how many more weeks of winter are left. Lesser known Canadian groundhogs include Manitoba’s Winnipeg Willow, Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam, and Quebec’s Fred.

 

While famous groundhogs such as Wiarton Willie seem like something you might want to have as a pet, the furry rodent, the largest member of the squirrel family, are a constant annoyance to both farmers and gardeners. Groundhogs, during the summer and fall months, gorge themselves on plants, fruits and tree barks, and can decimate an entire garden plot.

So it’s gonna be six more weeks of winter….put a hold on those flip flops ya’ll….Phil saw the shadow and made a beeline back to his hidey-hole.

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