“Six More Weeks of Winter,” Cries Rodent Meterologist

Groundhog Day 2005 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania

Image via Wikipedia

Being a weatherman cannot be an easy job. There are all of those fronts to keep track. You’re constantly looking at your barometer or thermometer and, I would imagine, all kinds of other mometers just to guess what the temperature will be the next day. Plus, you have to be really good at pointing at maps, an ability that is surprisingly difficult.

Even with all of these advances in science and with years of schooling under their belt, the meteorologists are still frequently wrong. They might as well flip a coin or let some random animal guess what will happen outside.

I guess that’s why Groundhog Day exists.

The tradition of allowing an animal to predict our weather began in 1841.Pennsylvaniastorekeeper James Morris was known for keeping immaculate records in his diary. It was here that he recorded the first known American record of the tradition in his diary:

Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans,  the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.

It was also the day I met my dear Barbara. I would not hate to be stranded with her in a tree, perhaps K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”

This entry went on for 13 more pages, describing Barbara’s “excellent birthing hips” in great detail. It was really gross and unpleasant for all. The first part of the passage, though, has forever changed the landscape of Pennsylvania history.

Since that day, hundreds have gathered in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania every year for the annual “Ground Hog and Terrible City Name Festival.” It’s always quite a sight to see. The biggest draw is national groundhog hero Punxsutawney Phil predicting the weather for the coming year. Phil is the world’s best known animal meteorologist.

There’s just one problem with this: animals are dumb. They are far too dumb to predict the weather accurately. In fact, the only prediction that Phil can manage to make is whether or not winter is about to end. Of course anyone with a calendar can figure this out without relying on Phil. That wouldn’t be anywhere near as adorable, though.

The tradition goes like this: people gather around a groundhog’s burrow early in the morning. Then, a person wakes up poor Phil and pulls him out. Phil either sees his shadow, is terrified, and runs back into his hole or stands outside, confused by the cameras and the people surrounding him.

If the rodent returns to his hole, this means there will be six more weeks of winter. It has nothing at all to do with his tendency to avoid people who yank him out of his home. It’s all about meteorology.

Of course there are many issues with this plan. As we’ve already discussed, Phil comes from a stupid species. There is no chance that Phil knows anything about weather or, really, anything human related. He did not go to meteorology school. He spends most of his time getting fat so he can sleep for months at a time.

The bigger issue comes from the way he predicts the weather. In 115 years, Phil has seen his shadow 87% of the time. There is a simple reason for this. To figure this out, I’d like you to refer to the sketch below:

As you’ll see, Phil pops his little groundhog head out of his little groundhog hole. That’s when 3,000 cameras begin flashing and lighting up. With that many cameras flashing, there is no way a groundhog would not see his shadow.

If we really wanted a more accurate groundhog forecast, we should put Phil out in the middle of nowhere by himself. When he comes out of the hole, this time on his own accord, there would be no cameras to create thousands of shadows all around him. It would be just Phil and his dirty, groundhog hole. Sure, he would still probably be wrong, but at least he would have a fair shot.

There are many more issues I could delve into. I could talk about the fact that Phil has outlived the average groundhog by 100+ years or the fact that Phil is only right 39% of the time. That seems like nitpicking, though. I’m sure one of the first signs of insanity is criticizing a rodent’s scientific abilities, so I’ll let it slide by.

The fact is that I do not trust rodents to do anything, let alone predict the weather. Phil predicted six more weeks of winter this morning. Today it was 63 degrees. Clearly he is, yet again, incorrect.

At least he has an excuse, though. He is just a groundhog.

If humans can’t predict the weather right, an animal waking up from hibernation definitely can’t.


21 thoughts on ““Six More Weeks of Winter,” Cries Rodent Meterologist

  1. My daughter took a weather class in college last semester and basically learned that no one can predict the weather more than 24 hours in advance and even then it is a crap shoot.

    BTW – It is snowing big time here……
    I love these evening giggles….


  2. That’s right, just blame it on us Germans!
    You know, the only thing I don’t understand is why PETA, Greenpeace and the Animal League haven’t joined forces decades ago to end this particularly heinous example of animal abuse, what with all the yankin’ and stuff. Maybe they are Bill Murray fans…


  3. I guess we could always “Google Earth” him. That would help with the flash shadow, but unfortunately we would still be using a groundhog to predict weather, which is kind of like using the flip of a coin to dictate your life.


  4. We just need to get the photographers to stand facing Phil – that will take care of the shadow problem. It will still be there, but it’ll be behind him so he won’t see it.


  5. Wow, a whole post on Groundhogs Day and Punxsutawney Phil and no mention of movies or postulations that perhaps this year we’ll be forced to live out a lifetime comprising only Groundhogs Days with no escape. Impressive, sir. Thankfully, we have Sandra Parsons. Yeah, Bill Murray!


  6. I love your wry sense of humor. And we are a strange bunch of humans. If this tradition was practiced in some “lesser developed” country, we’d try to modernize their forecasting technology and send them to school!


  7. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who gets annoyed with the whole shadow/flashbulb thing. The whole thing is dumb. I mean I can go along with a cute, kitschy tradition – it’s like the ball drop on New Year’s Eve where a bunch of people go stand in the cold to watch it happen so they can say they did it once. But to act like a groundhog a) can see a shadow; and b) wouldn’t in the glare of all those lights is just stupid.

    What’s that you say? You aren’t annoyed? You’re just pointing it out? Oh.


    • Oh, no. I am definitely annoyed. This is just one of many things that annoy me.

      Things that annoy me:
      1. People who say “sherbert” not “sherbet.” Read the packaging.
      2. When my socks are slightly damp.
      3. People saying they “could care less.” Think about what you just said, my friend. That does not make much sense. Now, if you could NOT care less, I would understand.
      4. Lady Gaga…

      This is just a small sample.


  8. if we have more winter like THIS one then i am completely fine with it! 🙂 last year in the south we had over a foot of snow at times. this year i don’t think we even got an inch or two. love this!


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