Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Stupid groundhog

Posted By on Tue, Feb 2, 2010 at 1:48 PM

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, or something, and now people are worried we have another six weeks of winter ahead.

Um, OK. He also, supposedly, talks to his caregivers and is, like, 200 years old. If that's the case, the real miracle is that he can see anything at all.

Fortunately we live in Charlotte where spring arrives early regardless of what a giant rodent's handlers intuit.

Ignoring Punxsatawney Phil's prediction, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest we'll have spring-like days here in four weeks — because we're lucky like that.

Tradition has it that if Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his temporary burrow—a simulated tree stump at the rural site of Gobbler's Knob—on February 2 and sees his shadow, winter weather will continue for six more weeks across the United States. But if Phil doesn't see his shadow, then spring temperatures are just around the corner. (See "No Winter by 2105? Study Offers Grim Forecast for U.S.")

Regardless of the weather prediction, on Groundhog Day, Phil "speaks" to his human caretakers, known as the Inner Circle, in Groundhogese and tells them his forecast.  The Inner Circle then translates Phil's words for the world to hear—or so they say.

Whatever he says on February 2, "immortal" Punxsutawney Phil—supposedly born no later than the 19th century—will get his 2010 message out in some decidedly 21st-century ways, by texting his forecast for the first time (to sign up, text "groundhog" to 247365)  and, of course, updating his Facebook status.

While Phil's proponents maintain that his predictions are 100 percent accurate, the U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) has estimated that Phil is only correct about 40 percent of the time.

The NCDC reached their conclusion by taking Phil's predictions and comparing them with average temperatures in February and March. In many years when Phil's predicted six more weeks of winter weather, February and March turned out to be warmer than average.

But to obsess over the accuracy of Phil's predictions is to miss the point, Chapin said. "It's more about having fun."

Read more about the magical groundhog in National Geographic, in an article by Ker Than, here.

For inquiring minds: Groundhog day is rooted in an ancient tradition known as Imbolic (Christians call it Candlemas). Whatever label you want to slap on the calendar, the fact remains: Spring is on the way.

Check out another annoying talking groundhog on a sunny, warm day. (Why do we pay attention to these guys again?)

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