Early spring hopefuls will soon flock to the nearest prognosticating groundhog to gain meteorological insights into the weeks ahead. Known as Groundhog Day, the U.S. tradition builds upon old German lore associated with predicting the spring weather on Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Feast of the Presentation of our Lord Jesus commemorating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple on Feb. 2.
If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.
Somewhere along the line someone added the hibernating groundhog and its shadow to the Candlemas tradition and Groundhog Day was later adopted in the U.S. in 1887. While Pennsylvania has the longest running tradition, Ohio is home to two groundhog meteorologists.
From Ohio History Central: “Buckeye Chuck is one of two groundhogs in Ohio known for predicting the arrival of spring. A native of Marion, Ohio, Chuck began predicting spring’s arrival in the 1970s.
“From late September until early April, Buckeye Chuck spends his time hibernating. On Feb. 2, against his will, Chuck emerges from his sleep to predict the weather. In 1979, the Ohio legislature made Buckeye Chuck Ohio’s official groundhog.
“Using groundhogs to predict the weather came from Germany. A long-held German tradition states that if a hibernating animal sees its shadow on Feb. 2, six more weeks of winter will occur. In the United States, this tradition evolved into Groundhog Day. Generally, wild groundhogs live to only two years of age while domesticated ones commonly live to ten years of age. While groundhogs rarely live more than a decade, some people contend that Buckeye Chuck is the same groundhog that has predicted the weather for almost 30 years.”
Jim Noel, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, predicts a warmer wetter than normal winter ahead with a late last freeze date.
“Going forward for the remainder of winter it looks a little warmer and wetter than normal with still significant swings in weather patterns,” Noel said in a recent CORN Newsletter. “The early outlook for spring planting season suggests a slightly warmer than normal season with precipitation normal or slightly above normal. Some planting delays would be possible. Historical data suggests a slightly later than normal last freeze date.”
Will the weatherman and the weather groundhogs of Ohio agree? Only time will tell.