13 Groundhog Day Facts, Background and Folklore according to NOAA
1. A groundhog ‘predicts’ the end of winter annually on February 2nd.
2. The ‘official prediction’ takes place at Gobbler’s Knob, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
3. The official groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, burrows inside his (heated simulated) tree trunk and does his job at (or not) at about 7:25 am
4. If Phil emerges from his burrow and doesn’t see his shadow the yippy- it is Spring.
5. If Phil emerges from his burrow and sees his shadow then yippy- it is Spring…. in 6 weeks.
7. Groundhog Day has its origins in an ancient celebration of a point mid-way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Superstition has it that fair weather was seen as forbearance of a stormy and cold second half to winter.
8. Another theory is that the trail of groundhog history actually leads back to Clymer H. Freas, city editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper. In 1887, he was inspired by a group of local hunters and gourmets who held a groundhog hunt followed by a picnic barbecue of, well, you know. Freas thought it so much fun that he wrote up the group as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club and went on to promote the Punxsutawney Groundhog as the official weather forecaster.
9. NOAA says that Punxsutawney Phil, according to their data, has no predictive skill for the groundhog during the most recent years of this analysis.
Since 1993, the U.S. national temperature has been above normal 10 times in February, 11 times in March, below normal 6 times in February, 3 times in March, and near normal 3 times in February and 5 times in March.
10. Other prognosticating rodents are popping up to claim a piece of the action. Most of these furry “forecasters” have a following that includes locals, visitors and the media. The revered groundhogs typically preside over festival events before making their grand appearance to check for shadows on the morning of February 2nd. There is a listing with links in #13
11. The film comedy, “Groundhog Day” brought in more than $100 million worldwide, and was the most popular movie in the country for two weeks in 1993. In the movie Bill Murray plays Phil, who gets assigned to cover the Punxsutawney Phil groundhog event. On the way back out of town after the big event, traffic is so bad that he can’t get out of the town. Phil decides to stay in town overnight but the next morning he wakes up at 6:00 to his alarm clock playing the exact same song from the day before. He listens to the radio broadcast and realizes that they are playing the same program from the day before. Everything he does begins to repeat itself. And somehow, Phil is the only one who remembers anything.
Punxsutawney Phil Vs. the U.S. National Temperature 1988–2011
The table below gives a snapshot by year since 1988 whether Phil saw his shadow or not along with the corresponding monthly national average temperature departures for both February and March. The table shows no predictive skill for the groundhog during the most recent years of this analysis. Since 1993, the U.S. national temperature has been above normal 10 times in February, 11 times in March, below normal 6 times in February, 3 times in March, and near normal 3 times in February and 5 times in March.
|February Temperature Departure||March Temperature Departure|
|2011||No||Slightly Below||Slightly Above|
|2008||Yes||Slightly Above||Slightly Below|
|2001||Yes||Slightly Above||Tied Average|
Additional Groundhog Web Links
Punxsutawney Phil – Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
General Beauregard Lee – Atlanta, Georgia
Wiarton Willie – Wiarton, Ontario, Canada
Sir Walter Wally – Raleigh, North Carolina
Jimmy – Wisconsin