Posted by James Briggs on February 05, 2003
The concept of Groundhog Day was virtually unkonwn in the
UK, and other countries I suspect, until the advent of the film.
The 'Times' weather section on Tuesday caried the following:
SUNDAY was Groundhog Day in America: if a groundhog emerging from its burrow
casts a shadow it forecasts six more weeks of winter, but no shadow means that
spring will come early. This year the groundhog's shadow predicted more cold,
after an already bitter winter.
This folklore originates from Candlemas Day, February 2, in Europe when farmers looked for signs of the weather in spring:
"If Candlemas Day be fair and bright/ Winter will have another flight/ But if Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain/ Winter is gone and won't come again."
Hedgehogs and bears waking from hibernation were also said to forecast the weather, and when European settlers arrived in North America they looked to the groundhog for weather predictions. So is there any truth in the power of animals to forecast the weather? A groundhog's shadow means that the weather is sunny, and possibly dominated by a high-pressure system, which brings clear skies and cold conditions. A grey sky or weak sun gives no shadow and may be caused by a wet and mild low-pressure system.
These forecasts are only good for a day or two ahead. As for six weeks, the records show that the groundhog is a terrible long-range forecaster.