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Has there ever been any research done to support climate differences in comparison to the "groundhog's" prediction? I was just curious about this. When did Groundhog Day originate anyway?

Posted February 4, 2007

MIKE MOSS SAYS:     Cindy,    Any number of informal "studies" have been done by newspapers, magazines and the like, and they usually cite a "success" rate for Punxsutawney Phil of anywhere from about 25 to 40 percent. However, I'm not aware of any more serious studies, probably because there is no reason to expect a meaningful relationship between the presence or absence of a shadow at a particular moment on the morning of Feb 2nd and the weather that will follow over a 4-6 week period. In fact, it seems a little odd that the numbers above aren't closer to 50%, which I suspect has to do with exactly how you define "six more weeks of winter" or "early spring," and then how you decide to interpret what are often significant swings toward above normal and below normal temperatures during the course of the weeks following the groundhog's emergence. I've also read somewhere that there is a committee that votes the day before as to whether Phil will "see his shadow" or not, although I'm not sure if it's always been done that way.

Apparently the holiday has roots in old European sayings about the staying power of winter that related to whether skies were bright or cloudy on Candlemas day, chosen for its position on the calendar halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal (spring) equinox. The same timing was applied when the Punxsutawney Phil tradition was initiated, back in 1887.

Here are some addresses for more information. First, if you'd like to track the predictions of our local Sir Walter Wally, and some follow-up weather data, see this site hosted by the NC State Climate:

http://www.nc-climate.ncsu.edu/climate/groundhog/

The National Climatic Data Center has a similar page with a more national perspective and a bit more Groundhog history at

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/extremes/2004/groundhog/groundhog.html
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