Groundhog Day is upon us again. This Saturday, the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania celebrates the country's most famous weather forecaster — Punxsutawney Phil — who will emerge from his lair on Gobbler's Knob shortly after 7 a.m. ET on February 2.
According to Punxsutawney lore, if Phil sees his shadow as he emerges, the country is headed for at least six more weeks of winter. If not, expect an early spring. Either way, the official first day of spring is Wednesday, March 20.
How to watch 2019 Groundhog Day festivities
If you want to be the first to know if there will be six more weeks of winter and can't travel to Punxsutawney, here's how you can watch Phil make his prediction online for free.
- What: Punxsutawney Phil's Groundhog Day weather prediction
- When: Saturday, February 2, 2019
- Location: Gobbler's Knob – Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
- Time: Approximately 7:20 a.m.
- Online stream: CBSN live on your mobile device or in the video player above when the event starts.
When is Groundhog Day?
In a tradition dating back to the early 1880s, Groundhog Day falls on February 2 every year. It is celebrated in both the United States and Canada.
Gobbler's Knob is home to the best known groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, and the town of Punxsutawney celebrates with a week-long festival. Phil and his forebears have been making their annual predictions since 1887.
However, Phil has competition. The New York City metro area turns to Staten Island Chuck. Canadians flock to Wiarton, Ontario, on a peninsula that juts north into Lake Hudson, where their groundhog — Wiarton Willie — is an albino rodent. Wiarton Willie and his predecessors have been making the the winter-spring prediction there since 1956.
How often is the groundhog right?
According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's records, cross-referenced by the Stormfax Almanac's weather data, Phil has only been accurate in his weather predictions about 39 percent of the time. Canadian weather data suggests the groundhog predictions there are only correct 37 percent of the time.
Far more often than not, Phil does cast a shadow, indicating six more weeks of winter.
Who started Groundhog Day?
The tradition of Groundhog Day can be traced back to Candlemas Day, a Christian tradition on this date where candles where blessed and distributed. According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, German settlers brought the tradition with them to the U.S.
According to the tradition, if an animal emerged from their den on February 2nd and the sun was out, there would be six more weeks of winter. In winter, cold, dry Arctic air is often associated with sunny days while inland, coastal air is more often associated with cloudy days. So the basis of a sunny day where an animal can cast a shadow may have some merit.
In 1886, the local newspaper first mentioned the activities of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. That club, still active today, officially named the now-famous hilltop "Gobbler's Knob" and declared it as the official location for the groundhog to most accurately predict the weather.
What is a groundhog?
Part of the marmot family of large ground squirrels, a groundhog is also known as a woodchuck. These rodents prefer habitats near wooded areas, in open areas and ravines. They prefer to burrow into their dens and are known to exhibit behaviors of territoriality. Groundhogs are found throughout much of the eastern U.S. as well as Canada and Alaska. According to National Geographic, they grow to about two feet long with an average weight of 13 pounds.