Groundhog Day: Furry forecaster consensus is 6 more weeks of winter

Groundhog Day's furry forecasters have reached a consensus on how long winter will last, with three of five seeing their shadows — indicating another six weeks of cold-weather misery.

Shubenacadie Sam, Punxsutawney Phil, Potomac Phil see longer winter, Wiarton Willie and Winnipeg Willow don't

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Featured VideoConsensus reached for longer winter, 2 dissenters predict early spring

Groundhog Day's furry forecasters have reached a consensus on how long winter will last, with three of five seeing their shadows — indicating another six weeks of cold-weather misery.

Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam came out of his burrow first, and saw his shadow soon after 8 a.m. AT Monday, which according to tradition means another month and a half of winter weather.

In Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil, emerged with the same outlook after also seeing his shadow.

However, in Wiarton, Ont., Wiarton Willie — another rodent burdened with the tourism fortunes of a small community — dissented from his peers. He failed to see his shadow, indicating an early spring. He was operating under heavy cloud, with snow and blowing snow in the forecast from Environment Canada.

In Winnipeg, lesser-known woodchuck Winnipeg Willow also failed to see his shadow, forecasting an early spring.

In Washington, D.C., Potomac Phil forecast both six more weeks of winter and six more weeks of "political gridlock," local media reported. Admittedly, Potomac Phil is a stuffed groundhog under the control of human handlers.

Last year, only Wiarton Willie was correct when he spotted his shadow.

Neither Shubenacadie Sam nor Winnipeg Willow saw shadows, thereby forecasting an early spring.

They were wrong. A polar vortex plunged Canada into a brutal winter that dragged on and on.

Environment Canada has already crunched the data for the next month and come up with this prediction: February will be colder than normal across the country.

Senior climatologist Dave Phillips notes Wiarton Willie's overall record is spotty, but says predicting the weather is a tough gig.

"His batting average is not that great… but hey, neither is ours."

Why groundhog forecasters are male

The motivation for male groundhogs to stick their necks out at this time of year may not be weather-related at all, the National Geographic reported on its website Sunday.

Shubenacadie Sam, Nova Scotia's weather clairvoyant and the first furry weather forecaster on Groundhog Day, also saw his shadow Monday morning, indicating weeks more winter weather. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Many of them do emerge on Groundhog Day, but not to see their shadow.

“At this time of year, males emerge from their burrows to start searching for the females,” Stam Zervanos, emeritus professor of biology at Penn State Berks, in Reading. Pa., told the National Geographic.

“The females come out probably seven days later and stay just outside of their burrow or maybe just inside their burrow.” he said.

Both sexes then return to their separate burrows to think about what they've seen and prepare for warmer mating weather.


  • An earlier version of this story reported incorrectly that the Manitoba forecaster, Winnipeg Willow, foresaw a longer winter. In fact, Winnipeg Willow, a woodchuck, failed to see its shadow, indicating an early spring.
    Feb 02, 2015 9:46 AM ET

With files from The Canadian Press