Monday, February 2, 2009

The weather prophets

Every morning of February 2 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and a few other places in the United States and Canada, a groundhog emerges from its underground burrow and takes a look around. What happens next is the subject of much North American folklore but is based on old European traditions: If the weather is cloudy, the groundhog "doesn't see his shadow." This supposedly means that winter will soon be over. But if the weather is sunny and the groundhog is able to see its shadow, it goes back underground. This is an indication that there will be six more weeks of winter. 

It was sunny this morning in Punxsutawney, so "Punxsutawney Phil" - perhaps the most famous of the groundhogs - didn't see his shadow. It was also sunny in the Indianapolis area. We don't have our own groundhog, so we look to "Woodstock Willie" (from Woodstock, Illinois).  He didn't see his shadow, either. Even my home state, North Carolina, will also have six more weeks of winter according to Raleigh-based "Sir Walter Wally."

But the odds may be against the little marmots. According to Wikipedia, a study by the National Climatic Data Center (USA) found that the little weather prophets were only correct 39% of the time. 

So even though the news was disappointing for those of us who are pretty much sick of the cold by now, at least we know the predictions aren't science. We'll just have to wait and see what happens!