Groundhog Day predicts another 6 weeks of winter for America
Groundhog Day, the world's most eccentric weather forecasting system, has predicted that America is in for another six weeks of winter.
By Tom Leonard in New York
Last Updated: 9:57PM GMT 02 Feb 2009
Following tradition in Punxsutawney, the groundhog communicated his prediction to Bill Cooper, a top-hatted town elder who claims to be the only person in the world to speak 'Groundhogese'Photo: REUTERS
Every February 2 since 1887, the behaviour of a groundhog – a rodent in the marmot family – called Phil has been closely observed as it emerges for the day in Punxsutawney, a small town in western Pennsylvania.
On Monday the current "Phil" emerged from its burrow just after dawn in front of a 13,000-strong crowd on Gobbler's Knob, a tiny hill in the town, which is 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
According to German superstition, if a hibernating animal sees its shadow on this day – the Christian festival of Candlemas – winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, according to legend, spring will come early.
On this occasion, the groundhog reportedly saw its shadow. At least that was the case in Punxsutawney, whose annual ceremony was made famous in the 1993 film Groundhog Day, about a reporter – played by Bill Murray – who keeps living the same day over and over again.
At another Groundhog Day ceremony in New York, a rodent called Staten Island Chuck didn't see his shadow but did bite Michael Bloomberg, the city's mayor – an action that groundhog experts were at a loss to explain in meteorological terms.
Following tradition in Punxsutawney, the groundhog communicated his prediction to Bill Cooper, a top-hatted town elder who claims to be the only person in the world to speak "Groundhogese".
Since 1887, Phil has seen his shadow 97 times, hasn't seen it 15 times, and there are no records for nine years, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.
The town, which this year attracted fans of the event from Japan, Iceland and Egypt, claims Phil has always been correct.
However, the US National Climate Prediction Centre said that the animal has only been right 39 per cent of the time.
Sheldon Carr, an engineer from Newburg, Wisconsin, was unable to explain the appeal of Groundhog Day, especially to non-Americans.
"There's no reason," he said. "No one understands the Yanks."
A spokesman for Mr Bloomberg said the Staten Island groundhog bit him on the hand, drawing blood, but there was no risk of rabies as the animal had been raised in captivity.
It's also Protium's birthday. Or would be if he had come to the States for a visit, maybe for his next birthday. How awesome would that be!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! His birthday was yesterday where he's at. Happy birthday big brother! :D