Will this Groundhog Day yield 6 more weeks?
By Staff Sgt. Larry Carpenter , 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 01, 2007
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
With Groundhog Day comes the news everyone is waiting for: will it be an early spring or is it time to hunker down for six more weeks of wintry bliss? Where and why did the tradition of letting a groundhog predict the weather come into play?
German settlers arrived in Pennsylvania in the 1700s, bringing some of their ancient traditions. One such tradition was Candlemas Day, which came at the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.
The superstition was, if the weather was nice on Candlemas Day, the second half of winter would be stormy and cold, but if the weather was cloudy and dismal, the second half of winter would be mild - an early spring.
Therefore, on Candlemas Day, if the sun was out, an animal would see its shadow and head back into hibernation for six more weeks. The Germans originally watched badgers, but in Pennsylvania the groundhog was chosen.
One of the most famous groundhogs has a few names: Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator or Prognosticators, Weather Prophet Extraordinary, or how he's best known: Punxsutawney Phil.
Punxsutawney Phil has been predicting the weather since 1886, with his first public appearance at Gobbler's Knob in 1887. Though heralded by many, Phil's weather predictions have been right only 39 percent of the time.
So with Phil's percentage of correct predictions, it's understandable that people believe more winter is a foregone conclusion.
"He's not going to see his shadow; he's going to go back into his little hole, find the most comfortable side of his body to sleep on, and sleep for six more weeks because it's cold," said Staff Sgt. Cory Green, assistant NCOIC with the 92nd Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight.
With the use of computer-generated models, even groundhogs, predicting the weather is never guaranteed.
"The Air Force has a very good Operation Weather Forecasting program, but Mother Nature is still the almighty," said Sergeant Green.
So what's the verdict - six more weeks of winter or not?
Regardless of whether ole' Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not, Sergeant Green believes there will be one more good cold snap before the spring-like weather starts in late February or early March.