Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
If you make a contribution of $150 or more, you will become an official “Friend of the Planet” and receive a Friend of the Planet T-shirt or water bottle. You can also submit opinion essays to us for our consideration for posting on our new “Bright Ideas” op-ed page.
The annual ritual that spawned a movie (and a great Super Bowl ad by Jeep) — the watching for Phil the groundhog from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to see whether he does not see his shadow in which case there is an early spring — is a bit of Americana rooted in both astronomy and Christian tradition. Even though Phil is often wrong (it’s not exactly science), he may be getting more accurate due to climate change. According to Climate Central, Punxsutawney Phil has been predicting earlier springs more often—14 times in the past 50 years, after only 5 times in the 73 years prior — and his shift toward earlier springs may be onto something because based on actual weather data, the six weeks after Groundhog Day are warming up in 93% of the 244 cities analyzed.
Why This Matters: One could argue that folklore like Groundhog Day and all its antiquated pageantry undermine the public’s reliance on the actual science of weather forecasting, and perpetuates myths that have staying power and resonate with the public. But if Phil’s predictions are changing — isn’t it another opportunity to educate the public — particularly the public that remains skeptical of science? And at a more basic level, this quaint tradition does underscore the close connection between man and nature and the importance of the clues we should be seeing in the natural world that are signaling climate change. It also shows that for centuries we have wanted to know not just tomorrow’s weather but what will happen in the next season too.
Where Did Groundhog Day Come From?
This U.S. and Canadian traditions of “celebrating” Groundhog Day on February 2 originate in traditions that go back for centuries, EarthSky.org explains. It is an astronomical event because it falls on a cross-quarter day, a day about midway between a solstice and an equinox — midway between the December solstice and the March equinox. Hundreds of years ago people were more aware of the sun’s movements across the sky than we are, since their plantings and harvests depended on it, and they used traditions like this one to plan ahead just like we do today.
“Quando a Senhora das Candeias está a rir está o inverno para vir, quando está a chorar está o inverno a acabar,” which translates to “If Our Lady of Candles smiles (Sun) the winter is yet to come, if she cries (Rain) the winter is over.”
At the end of June, we wrote that a record-breaking high temperature of 100° F was detected in the northeastern Siberian town of Verkhoyansk. This caused alarm as this was one more indicator of the rapid warming happening at the Arctic Circle. Unfortunately, this stretch of record heat has continued in Siberia where’s it’s accelerated […]
by Julia Fine, ODP Contributing Writer A new study published in Nature Communications reported that UK summer temperatures could soon reach and exceed 40°C (104°F). As Olivia Rosane reported in EcoWatch, UK summers, at present, only hit this high temperature every 100-300 years. However, according to the new study, which was released by the UK […]
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.