Much of the northeastern US remains in the grip of winter snow, making the predictions for the rest of the winter from a world-famous rodent of particular interest.
The snowstorms that have hit the mid-Atlantic and New England have been of historic proportions.
Chicago had the fifth biggest snowstorm since 1871 (48cm); Detroit the third worst since 1880 (42cm); Boston has had more snow in the last 10 days (47cm) than would usually fall in a whole year (44cm).
In traditional old English weather lore, the weather on Candlemas Day (February 2) was taken as a guide to the weather for the remainder of the winter. This is summed up in the following old poem:
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
If Candlemas brings cloud and rain,
Winter is gone and won’t come again.
To say goodbye to winter at the beginning of February seems foolhardy to say the least, and there is no evidence to back it up.
In the US, Groundhog Day is a more modern version of the Candlemas prediction. This is familiar to many of us from the 1993 movie of the same name, starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell.
Tradition has it that the early German settlers in Pennsylvania thought the groundhog to be a particularly sensitive and intelligent creature. (Nobody knows why!) They decided that if the sun shone on Candlemas Day then a wise animal such as the groundhog would see its own shadow and hurry back to its burrow to prepare for another six weeks of winter.
There are several weather-predicting groundhog events in the US but the most famous is the one which takes place in the quaintly named Gobbler’s Knob, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
Phil’s counterpart in New York City, Staten Island Chuck met an untimely end last year after he was dropped by City Mayor Bill de Blaiso.
Punxsutawney Phil has been making his weather predictions since 1887, suggesting he is either the world’s oldest rodent, or he is replaced by a doppelganger every few years.
Regardless, Phil’s prognostications regularly attract crowds in excess of 30,000 and Phil has even appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Records show that Phil has now predicted more long winters (102 occasions) than early springs (17 occasions). There are no records for the remaining years.
This year Phil again saw his shadow, suggesting the US is in for more cold and snowy weather in the coming weeks.
Source: Al Jazeera