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The myth goes that if a groundhog sees his shadow on Feb 2, six more weeks of winter are yet to come, but if he doesn't, spring is just around the corner.

I am wondering if there is any science behind this myth, or perhaps an origin based on observations of actual weather patterns relating to the seasons.

Never mind the groundhog, I am thinking about sky conditions and the seasons.

Specifically, where I am in southern Ontario Canada, winter is usually at its coldest around the start of February. At this time of year we are often under an arctic high pressure "dome"; skies are often clear. As the cold gives way to milder weather, we often end up under the jetstream, or at least it sweeps back and forth over us, delivering a lot of stormy, wintry weather, after which the jetstream at the boundary of the polar air mass eventually retreats north and spring arrives.

Is this an oversimplification? If not, could this sort of pattern be the origin of the myth: generally clear skies mean winter remains settled in, more unsettled weather means winter is about to give way to spring?

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  • $\begingroup$ The thing In the end, if there were something directing them to form the idea, then it should show some skill (it should do better than wild guessing). [This graphic from NOAA](This image highlights that skill isn't shown. $\endgroup$ – JeopardyTempest Feb 26 '18 at 2:13
  • $\begingroup$ (Maybe not enough to be a full answer, but offers a starting point. Perhaps some information on sky condition patterns in PA (and versus Phil). Also note that there are... a lot of "groundhogs" now! But I figure you'd be looking towards the oldest one [Phil???]. $\endgroup$ – JeopardyTempest Feb 26 '18 at 2:15
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    $\begingroup$ Not an answer, but kind of a fun read: fiftyisthenewfifty.com/the-real-science-behind-groundhog-day The next time somebody wishes you happy groundhogs day, you can say "Happy cross-quarter day to you too". It's also Fred Flintstone's birthday. $\endgroup$ – userLTK Feb 26 '18 at 5:22
  • $\begingroup$ The way I heard it, Groundhog Day weather is the opposite of the weather to follow: if it's sunny, groundhog sees shadow + winter continues. If it's cloudy, groundhog doesn't seem shadow + winter ends. Also, I metaphysically object to Fred Flintstone have a birthday on a day that couldn't possibly have existed on his calendar :P $\endgroup$ – Barry Carter Feb 26 '18 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ @userLTK Yeah, the author kind of makes the point of my question, but makes a couple of horrible mistakes by calling the nominal dates Dec 21 and Jun 21 "equinoxes" (as well as solstices) and the nominal dates Mar 21 and Sep 21 "solstices". There are NOT 4 solstices in the year. Solstice - "sun stand still" - mid-summer and mid-winter! Equinox - "equal night" - day and night same length - spring and fall! Someone needs to correct him! $\endgroup$ – Anthony X Feb 27 '18 at 2:31

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