Will it be six more weeks of winter or an early spring? That’s right, woodchuck-chuckers, it’s Groundhog Day 2024!
Punxsutawney Phil is set to make his annual weather prediction on Friday, Feb. 2, at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The small town, which calls itself the “weather capital of the world,” is home to the tiny meteorologist now celebrating their 138th Groundhog Day event.
Will the groundhog see his shadow? If he does, that means six more weeks of winter. If not, that means you won’t need to put your booties on.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts the famous weather prognosticator won’t see his shadow Friday morning due to cloudy skies in Punxsutawney’s forecast. There’s also a chance of rain, which would make an early spring apropos.
Of course, if you live in Syracuse, you might be wondering when winter’s going to start, not stop. As of Feb. 1, the Salt City has seen just 27.9 inches of snow this season, according to goldensnowball.com — the normal average at this point in the calendar is 74 inches. Mild weather also forced the Syracuse Pond Hockey Classic to move from Hiawatha Lake, which hadn’t frozen, to Clinton Square last month.
It’s becoming a trend. 2023 was the third-warmest year in Syracuse in at least 120 years, and six of Syracuse’s 10 warmest years have occurred since 2002. Syracuse has historically been the snowiest city in America, but last winter saw just 55 inches of snow — less than half the typical 128 inches.
Buffalo, on the other hand, is closer to its annual average snowfall thanks to a huge winter storm that forced a Buffalo Bills game to be delayed in January. The Queen City has recorded 53.6 inches of snow for the 2023-2024 winter; the normal average to date is 60 inches, according to The Golden Snowball.
Either way, the first day of spring 2024 is technically March 19 this year. The season officially starts with the vernal equinox.
Groundhog Day history
According to an old German legend, if a groundhog sees his shadow on Feb. 2, winter will last another six weeks. If not, spring comes early. (The pseudo-holiday originally started as badger day in European folklore, but German immigrants in Pennsylvania couldn’t find badgers, so they started using groundhogs.)
The Associated Press notes the tiny meteorologist’s weather “forecast” is actually decided before he “sees” his shadow on Groundhog Day. Records show Punxsutawney Phil has called for an extended winter more than 100 times since 1887, and spring just over a dozen times.
The NOAA also says there’s no national correlation between Phil’s shadow-sightings and the actual weather in February and March. The groundhog’s shadow is only an accurate prediction about 40 percent of the time, according to the numbers.
Punxsutawney Phil also doesn’t have a strong track record predicting weather in Syracuse and CNY. From 2004 to 2013, there was no correlation between his predictions and the actual weather: In the five warmest periods after Feb. 2 over that stretch, Phil called for a late spring; in the coldest six-week stretch, in 2007, he promised an early spring.
But the silly tradition endures, popularized in part by the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day.” Bill Murray starred as grumpy weatherman Phil Connors, living the same day (Feb. 2) over and over again in Punxsutawney, Pa.
“This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. What a hype,” Murray said in the film.
Murray revisited his groundhog adventure in a 2020 Super Bowl commercial and his co-star Stephen Tobolowsky, who played insurance salesman Ned Ryerson, will reportedly appear in eight different Groundhog Day-themed ads this Friday.
The holiday is not without controversy. The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has repeatedly requested the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club retire Punxsutawney Phil and replace him with a robot — an animatronic groundhog with an artificial intelligence (AI) system that could more accurately predict the coming weather.
First appeared on www.syracuse.com