Groundhog Day 2012: How groundhogs stack up against Mother Nature


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Groundhog Day 2012 hoopla is tickling the nation. Maybe it’s a sign of too much technology in our lives or of boredom with the upcoming election, but Americans really seem to be getting a kick out of the quaint and quirky tradition of letting a groundhog predict the weather.

How else to explain why thousands of people showed up on this cold and dark winter’s morning at Gobblers Knob -- seriously, it’s called Gobblers Knob -- in Punxsutawney, Pa., to see whether Punxsutawney Phil would catch a glimpse of his shadow? And why ‘Groundhog Day’ stories are setting the Web on fire, with no less than six of the Top 10 most frequently searched terms on Google relating in some way shape or form to prognosticating groundhogs?


But, come on, people, it can’t all be butterflies and rainbows and groundhogs. We have to ask: Can groundhogs really predict what Mother Nature has in store?

The U.S. National Climatic Data Center says that the answer is ‘no.’

‘It really isn’t a ‘bright’ idea to take a measure such as a groundhog’s shadow and use it as a predictive meteorological tool for the entire United States,’ the center says on its website.

(Sounds like some folks are jealous that thousands of people aren’t showing up outside their door each day to cheer them on while they’re doing their jobs.)

The service went all the way back to 1988 and compared Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions with actual weather temperatures. The folks there then put all the data into a nifty chart -- and found little to no correlation.

‘The table shows no predictive skill for the groundhog during the most recent years of this analysis,’ according to the center.

(Sounds like some folks are awfully defensive, too).

Groundhog Day and its traditions are said to come from Europe, dating back to a time when people closely watched the comings and goings of animals for signs of the future. Groundhog legend has it that if a groundhog sees his shadow on Groundhog Day -- Feb. 2 -- winter weather will drag on for another six weeks. If no shadow appears, an early spring is on the way.


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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch