Day Predictions - Weather Lore or More?
the groundhog emerging from its burrow on February
2 can see its shadow, spring will be delayed. A cloudy
sky (and, therefore, no groundhog shadow) means spring
is coming soon. Crowds gathering for Groundhog Day
celebrations in the United States and Canada know
the story. But is it more than a story?
recent article in The New Scientist explains
that some weather prediction folklore can be supported
by scientifically observable phenomena. For example,
potato farmers in the Andes predict the rainy season
by noting how clear the Pleiades star cluster appears
in June. Bright stars mean lots of rain. Dim stars
mean a dry season.
noticed that "years when the Pleiades appear
unclear correspond with El Niño years. El Niño
causes markedly lower than normal rainfall in South
America, but creates a layer of high cloud over much
of the tropics that partially obscures the stars"
Groundhog Day predictions aren't quite as accurate
as other folklore weather predictions. According to
The New Scientist, the groundhog has been right
only a third of the time since 1886. But Groundhog
Day celebrations are a fun way to "think spring!"
the origin of Groundhog Day folklore? Once known as
"Candlemas" on the medieval European church
calendar, the day was based on two Christian festivals.
Eventually the day became connected to weather prediction.
In Europe, people watched badgers and bears to make
their weather predictions. When the Pennsylvania Dutch
came to America, they brought the tradition with them,
adapting it to groundhogs or woodchucks (McCormick
two places in Pennsylvania are centers for Groundhog
(since the 1880s) and Quarryville (after 1900). The
Bill Murray film, Groundhog
Day, has added to the excitement about Groundhog
New Scientist 177.2380 (2003): 43. Academic
Search Complete. Web. 8 Jan. 2012.
Charlie T. and Kim Kennedy White. "Pennsylvania
Dutch Folklore." Yoder, Don Ed. Folklore:
An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music,
and Art. Vol. 3. 2nd Ed. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO,
2011. P. 963-973.
Return to the Card Boulevard Groundhog Day Site to
send Groundhog Day Ecards!