Amy-O-Meter Blog du Jour: Groundhog Day Explained

(WDEF)  It’s not just one of my favorite movies…  Groundhog Day is also a topic just screaming to be turned into an Amy-O-Meter blog!

        Anyone who knows me knows even though I don’t try to predict it as a profession any more, weather is always near and dear to my heart.  (Truth is most geosciences are, which is why I’m currently working toward my Master’s Degree in Environmental Science at UTC.  Please see my anonymous survey if you own a Chattanooga-built VW Passat (  I need 80 respondents to finish my thesis, but I digress….)

        One of my favorite aspects of weather is that everyone is affected by it, and that’s always been true.  Maybe that’s why there are so many "weather-isms"** out there.  You know, sayings like ‘Red skies at night, sailor’s delight.  Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning.’  Well there’s actually some science behind it.  You can generalize this to mean since the sun sets in the west, when the sun shines across to the clouds in the east, a storm system has already moved through (since our weather tends to move from west to east thanks to our prevailing westerly winds.)  Storm system passed= smooth sailing.  When you’ve got the beautiful red sky during sunrise, the storm system is getting ready to move in.  When the sun rising from the eastern sky shines across to gathering clouds in the west, you’re in for a bumpy ride.  (Better take warning!)
        You could consider Groundhog Day a weather-ism, too.
        The history behind Groundhog Day goes back centuries to when ancient people celebrated the halfway point between the Winter Solstice (1st day of winter) and Vernal Equinox (1st day of spring.)  This date became the Christian celebration of Candlemas, noted each year on February 2nd. says Candlemas celebrates the presentation of the Christ child and Mary’s ritual purification, but the old pagan folklore associating the date with the changing of seasons stuck.
        The website for the U.S’s most famous furry forecaster (Punxsatawney Phil) says when Germans first settled in the United States, they brought with them this tradition: "For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, So far will the snow swirl until the May."
        History shows the Germans considered the European hedgehog to be a highly intelligent animal, so they determined if a hedgehog woke from its hibernation and saw its shadow, it would turn back around to continue hibernation since another six weeks of winter was on its way.  However, if the day is cloudy (and therefore shadowless) a hedgehog would see this as a sign of a weather pattern change and stay above ground.
        Since hedgehogs are not native to the United States, our common groundhog sits in as "seer of seers" on February 2nd.

        For the record: Pennsylvania’s Punxsatawney Phil saw his shadow… (Which means 6 more weeks of winter.)
        Chattanooga Chuck saw his shadow… (Which also means 6 more weeks of winter.)
        But Atlanta’s General Beauregard Lee did NOT see his shadow. (Which says spring is right around the corner!)

        That means two out of three of our famous marmot prognosticators  are calling for an extended hibernation… but I choose to believe General Lee.  Maybe Phil and Chuck just stayed up too late watching the Super Bowl and just pretended to see their shadows so they could get a little more shut-eye.  Bring on the spring!

        **By the way, don’t confuse my "weather-isms" with Prime News @ 7’s "Patrick-isms."  Those are Patrick Core specific sayings like "Manitoba-mauler" and "Paperboy’s nightmare."  Patrick’s Weather-Wheel returns tomorrow (February 3rd) so brush up on your Patrick-isms, though!

Categories: Local News

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