Monday, January 16, 2017

Groundhog Day - Interview with a Groundhog -- Just how accurate are their predictions? Get the scoop!

A chat with one of  America’s best known rodents!

February 2nd is rolling around again and the Groundhog is getting ready to wake up and give us his yearly prediction on how much longer winter will last!   But why do Americans look to a Groundhog for such a special message? We went to the best source to find out -- a groundhog!


Forecast: To estimate something that will happen in the future.

Hibernate: When an animal spends the winter in a sleeping state so that they can conserve their energy.

Meteorologist: A scientist who studies the weather.

Predict: To estimate something that will happen in the future.

Prognosticate: To predict or forecast that an event will happen in the future.

Rodent: A group of mammals that are known for chewing and have big incisors. The rodent group includes rats, mice, squirrels and hamsters.

Q: Hello Mr. Groundhog! May I call you Mr. Groundhog?

A: Of course!  Although we do answer to many other names including woodchuck, groundpig, monax, Canada marmot and even whistlepig.  We are called whistle pigs because we sometimes make a whistling sound to warn other groundhogs of danger.

Q:So, how did you get the job of yearly weather predictor? You have to admit that most of our other weather forecasters are humans, not groundhogs.

A: This is true, but groundhogs like myself have been predicting when spring will arrive for hundreds of years.  In fact, groundhogs first started predicting the weather in Europe.
Germans who immigrated to the United States brought their tradition of watching groundhog behavior with them.

And England has a poem that says that if the sun comes out on February 2nd, there will be six more weeks of winter.   

Q: Just how do you predict whether we are going to get six more weeks of winter or an early spring?

A: It is quite simple!  I just walk outside of my burrow!  If it is a really sunny day, I will see my shadow and I will run back inside to hide.  That means we will all have six more weeks of winter.  If it is a cloudy day, I won’t see my shadow and I will stay outside.  This means that we will have an early spring!

Q: Why is Groundhog Day on February 2nd?

A: February 2nd is a perfect day to predict the change of seasons because it is the halfway point between the day winter starts on December 21st and the day that spring begins on March 20th.   
In fact, farmers from New England had a saying: “Groundhog day, half your hay!” meaning that you had better still have over half of your hay in the barn or you won’t have anything to feed your animals during the winter.

Q: You mentioned that there are other groundhogs like you that also predict when winter will come to an end?
A: I have many groundhog cousins around the country who predict the weather.  Our most famous cousin is a groundhog named
“Punxsutawney Phil” who predicts the weather in a small town in Pennsylvania.  The people of his town really celebrate Groundhog Day!  He even has an “Inner Circle” of humans who take care of him and dress up with top hats on  February 2nd.

Some of my other cousins are: Chattanooga Chuck in Tennessee, Jimmy the Groundhog in Wisconsin, Staten Island Charlotte (or sometimes Chuck) in New York and Nibbles in North Carolina.  

Q: If you don’t mind us asking, how often are your predictions correct?

A: It depends on who you ask.  I believe that I’m right 100% of the time!  The meteorologists with the United States government have a different way of figuring out whether the groundhog weather predictors get it right.  They compare our yearly forecast with whether the average temperatures for the months of February and March are above average or below average.   
Here’s a chart of what they thought of Punxsutawney Phil’s record for the last five years when they compare his forecast with the United States average temperatures.

Feb. Temp.
Mar. Temp
Mixed result
Mixed result

Q: And what is it that you do on the other 364 days of the year? Is it true that you hibernate in the winter?

A: Why yes, we are known for taking a long sleep during the winter.  Some of my cousins who live in northern areas with colder winters are known for sleeping in their burrows from October to March.  My cousins who live in southern areas with warmer winters may hibernate for less than three months.   

Q: Can you tell us more about your burrow?

A: We woodchucks are excellent diggers!  We create a tunnels in the dirt where we can stay warm.  We often line these tunnels with dried leaves.  We also definitely make certain that there are at least two ways out of our burrows.  We don’t want to be caught without a way to escape from a predator!

Q: And what’s a typical meal like for you?

A: In the summer, I love to eat green grasses and plants.  As you can see, I love eating clover as well as dandelions.  I also have been known to eat nuts and even insects.  

Q: Thanks for talking to us and good luck on February 2nd!

A: You’re welcome!  And for further information, check out these Web sources!

“Groundhog Day History” (
from  This site is the official one for Punxsutawney Phil’s fans.

Groundhog Day” ( from the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).  

NOTE: I wrote this because my third grade son kept on asking me questions that I couldn't answer!  And there isn't really that much that is readable about Groundhog's Day on the Web.  The above links are the best two that I could find.  If you are a teacher or a parent who is homeschooling their family, I have a three-page activity worksheet that goes along with this groundhog interview.  It includes a cultural tie-in and even some science.  Take a look at it on my Teachers Pay Teachers Web store -- Interview with a Groundhog - Student Activity Worksheet

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