These days, meteorologists use a wide variety of technologies to predict upcoming weather patterns, from weather balloons to Doppler radar. On February 2nd, however, modern techniques take a back seat to a decidedly less scientific method. I’m talking, of course, about Groundhog Day. How does a groundhog forecast the weather? Here’s the answer, courtesy of Wikipedia: “According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, it will leave the burrow, signifying that winter-like weather will soon end. If it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks.”
Explanations differ as to the exactly how or where the custom originated, but it has been linked to German settlers in central and southeastern Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many areas now have festivals celebrating local groundhog soothsayers. The most famous of these events is probably the one held in Punxsutawney, PA (popularized in the film Groundhog Day), where the star of the show is Punxsutawney Phil. Georgia has its own groundhog prognosticator, General Beauregard Lee, who lives at the Yellow River Game Ranch outside Atlanta, Georgia. You can visit his website here.
Interestingly enough, Punxsutawney Phil and General Beauregard Lee had conflicting predictions this year. The Pennsylvania groundhog forecasted six more weeks of Winter, but the General declared we could expect an early Spring.