Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The results are in!

Punxsutawney Phil, America's most famous rodent prognosticator, saw his shadow yesterday morning, signaling six more weeks of winter. Phil emerged from his ceremonial tree stump at Gobbler's Knob, Pennsylvania, to a cheering crowd that had waited in the cold for his annual prediction. It is the 99th time that Phil -- in his various incarnations -- has seen his shadow, according to groundhog.org, the official Web site of the groundhog club in Punxsutawney, about 75 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, in western Pennsylvania.

Not seeing a shadow -- something that has happened just 15 times in Phil's history, according to the club -- would have meant spring is around the corner.

Phil's predictions don't mean much to human weather predictors, however. According to stormfax.com, Phil is correct 39 percent of the time. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration goes even further, saying Phil has "no predictive skill."

The tradition behind the famous groundhog goes back to medieval times when there was a superstition that all hibernating animals emerged from their caves and dens to check the weather on Candlemas, which is halfway between the winter solstice in December and the vernal equinox in March.

Seeing their shadows would mean winter would go on for another six weeks, and they could go back to sleep, according to the tradition. The tradition came to America with the early German settlers who arrived in Pennsylvania.

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