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Weather-Predicting Groundhog Dies Right Before Groundhog Day

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

James is a published author with four pop-history and science books to his name. He specializes in history, strange science, and anything out of the ordinary.

Senior Staff Writer

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Fairly sure this groundhog could predict what season this is without psychic powers.

Fairly sure this groundhog could predict what season this is without psychic powers. Image credit: Brian E Kushner/Shutterstock.com

In what probably isn't a great omen for whatever the climate has in store for us this year, New Jersey's weather-predicting groundhog, Milltown Mel, has died right before Groundhog Day.

With Groundhog Day — the annual event where, to quote Bill Murray's Phil Connors, a rodent predicts the weather — taking place just a few days afterward, town officials were unable to find a replacement in time, meaning all weather will be predicted by humans this year.

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"We Wranglers are sad to report that Milltown Mel recently crossed over the rainbow bridge," Milltown Mel's wranglers announced on Mel's Facebook page, on January 31.

"Considering the average lifespan of a Groundhog is about 3 years, that is not such a shock," the post continued. "But Mel left us at a tough time of year, when most of his fellow groundhogs are hibernating...so no babies will be available to replace him until this Spring."

The idea of Groundhog Day comes from Pennsylvania Germans who settled in America in the 18th and 19th centuries. The superstition says that if a groundhog emerges from its burrow and sees its shadow in the clear weather, it will head back into its den to wait out the next six weeks of winter. If it doesn't see its shadow, due to cloud coverage, it will emerge and spring will arrive early.

The Washington Post looked at the statistics on this, comparing the average daily temperatures during the six weeks following a Groundhog Day prediction, and the prediction itself. They found that the rodents' predictions were roughly the same as random chance, with a few notable exceptions. In Oklahoma City, the years when the groundhog saw its shadow were 4.7°C (8.5°F) cooler than the years when it did not. Meanwhile in Florida, when the groundhog saw its shadow the days were on average 7.7°C (13.9°F) warmer following the prediction.

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The skills of Milltown Mel were unassessed by the Post, howvever. The wranglers have said they are looking for a replacement meteorologist groundhog by Groundhog Day 2023.

 

 

 


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