America has this tradition where a groundhog pops out of his little hidey-hole, then writes a scroll to some guy in a top hat. This guy reads the scroll, which answers the question: did the furry abomination see its shadow? If so, everyone freezes to death for six more weeks. If not, we collectively get to start complaining about summer weather 6 weeks sooner. It seems silly to me that Mother Nature would bow to the power of this weather-beaten rodent and its shadow, but with thousands of people gathering to watch the event and millions more reading about it clearly there is something to the story, right?
I’m not a fan of the cold, so it’s easy for me to dream of knocking that darn thing hard behind the head so that it can’t wake up until the next day – as good a way as any to ensure it doesn’t see its shadow. But as a recent article on CNN suggests, Punxsutawney Phil is less accurate at predicting the weather than your average coin flip. He is, apparently, only right about 40% of the time. This can be attributed to factors such as the difficulty in predicting 42 whole days of weather in advance; as part of the legend this is also attributed to the presenter misreading or misinterpreting what the groundhog saw.
As such, it appears it doesn’t really matter what this creature does or doesn’t say – winter is going to be winter. This is a shame, because this year the groundhog did not see its shadow, which would mean this winter vortex will be over soon and I can start wearing shorts. Indeed, this weather is not my friend – with temperatures hitting the “feels like” range of 60 to 70 below Fahrenheit (comment below if you know what that is in Celsius), I am ready for weather where I start sweating again.
This isn’t the only bit of folklore that we as Americans use to predict the weather. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, “Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry, Will cause snow to gather in a hurry.” As well, tough appleskins and flowers blooming in late autumn are a sign that a grim winter is coming. Yet for some reason, it is only this one groundhog that gets its own holiday. Strange, that.