Feb 3, 2023
Thought Question: What kind of annual traditions does your community have? How are they celebrated?
One of America’s oddest traditions happened on Thursday, and it’s safe to say, none of us are happy with this year’s outcome.
Punxsutawney Phil might be the most famous groundhog. He lives in Pennsylvania. Phil has insider knowledge of when seasons change. Thursday he saw his shadow. That means we have another six weeks of winter weather.
As this kooky tradition goes, each year on February 2 in a small town in Pennsylvania, Phil is released from his cage. If the day is sunny and the rodent spots his shadow, the contiguous 48 US states are in for six more weeks of winter. If Phil doesn't see his shadow, it means an early spring is on its way.
The event draws thousands of people. It has its origins in a German legend. The story involves a badger that can predict the weather. Some Germans thought the appearance of badgers to be the sign of a new season. The lore traveled overseas to the Pennsylvania Dutch. For reasons not completely clear, though, they inserted a groundhog into the role of badger. (It’s thought that groundhogs were more common in these parts of Pennsylvania.)
For a long while, Phil’s prediction was a fun story to offset heavier news. But the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day” helped to root the tradition into US culture.
Phil’s skills are in question, though. Scientists have compared his forecast to the national weather and found Phil is right just 40% of the time.
Photo from Reuters.
"Snows of Winter Past (2011)"
This piece of art gives a now-and-future view of how climate change will affect the appearance of a beautiful mountain in Washington.
Are Southern Hemisphere Seasons More Severe?
This video explains how the oceans act as a moderator to prevent more severe seasonal temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere, even though it's closer to the sun in the summer and further from the sun in the winter.
Drawing Connections: Yosemite National Park
This video by the National Park Service describes how a decrease in snowfall and a shorter winter season are negatively impacting Yosemite National Park.