National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Around the fifth century, the European Celts believed that animals had certain supernatural powers on special days that were half-way between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.  Folklore from Germany and France indicated that when marmots and bears came out of their winter dens too early, they were frightened by their shadow and retreated back inside for four to six weeks.  This was adopted by the Romans as Hedgehog Day.  When Christianity came into being, the formerly pagan observance also came to be called Candlemas.

The earliest known American reference to Groundhog Day can be found at the Historical Society of Berks County in Reading, Pa.  The reference was made Feb. 4, 1841 in Morgantown, Berks County (Pennsylvania) storekeeper James Morris’ diary: 

Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate.

 

2020 Ground Hogs
In 2009, Former Meteorologist In Charge Rich Kane was inducted into the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center's Meteorologist Hall of Fame.

 

In the U.S. the tradition derives from a Scottish poem:

As the light grows longer, The cold grows stronger. If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemas be cloud and snow, Winter will be gone and not come again. A farmer should on Candlemas day,
Have half his corn and half his hay. On Candlemas day if thorns hang a drop, You can be sure of a good pea crop.

In western countries in the Northern Hemisphere the official first day of Spring is about six weeks after Groundhog Day, on March 20 or 21.  About 1,000 years ago, before the adoption of the Gregorian calendar when the date of the equinox drifted in the Julian calendar, the spring equinox fell on March 16 instead.  This was exactly six weeks after February 2.  Assuming that the equinox marked the first day of spring in certain medieval cultures, as it does now in western countries, Groundhog Day occurred exactly six weeks before spring. Therefore, if the groundhog saw his shadow on Groundhog Day there would be six more weeks of winter. If he didn’t, there would be 42 more days of winter. In other words, the Groundhog Day tradition may have begun as a bit of folk humor.

Regardless, the annual prognostication occurs in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, 1886 was the first year that Groundhog Day in the city's newspaper.  The first official prediction occurred the following year, with Phil seeing his shadow and predicting 6 more weeks of winter.  He has been making forecasts ever since. 

How accurate is the groundhog?

 


Groundhog Climate Statistics:
 

Below are some Groundhog Day weather statistics for Pittsburgh, PA, Morgantown, WV and Zanesville, OH.

Pittsburgh, PA:

The following statistics comprises 150 years of data. From 1871 through June 1945, the data came from various locations in downtown Pittsburgh.  From July 1945 through mid-September 1952, the data came from the Allegheny County Airport.  Since then, the data has been gathered at the Pittsburgh International Airport.

Groundhog Day in Pittsburgh, PA
(Period of Record 1871-2020)
1981-2010 Normals
Records
Maximum Temperature
37°F
Warmest High Temperature
62°F
February 2, 1903
Coldest High Temperature
10°F
February 2, 1971
Minimum Temperature
22°F
 
Warmest Low Temperature
46°F
February 2, 1903
Coldest Low Temperature
-7°F
February 2, 1961
Average Temperature
29°F
 
Warmest Average Temperature
51.5°F
February 2, 1877
Coldest Average Temperature
1.0°F
February 2, 1971
Precipitation
0.09"
Wettest
1.04"
February 2, 1988
Snowfall
0.4"
Snowiest
2.5"
February 2, 2007
Snow Depth
at 7 AM 
1"
Most Snow of Ground
at 7 AM *record since 1948*
11"
February 2, 1966


The odds of having any precipitation at all on Groundhog Day is 75.3% (113 out of 150).  There has been measurable (0.01" or greater) precipitation on 73 Groundhog Days (48.7%) and trace amounts (less than 0.01") of precipitation on 40 Groundhog Days (26.6%). 

Since 1880, it has snowed on 79 out of 140 (56%) Groundhog Days.  Measurable snow (0.1" or greater) has fallen on 42 Groundhog Days (30%) and trace of snow (a dusting) has fallen on another 37 Groundhog Days (26%)

Since 1948, residents have woken up with measurable snow (1/2" or greater) on the ground 33 times (45.2%), trace amounts (less than a 1/2" inch) 12 times (16.4%), and no snow 28 times (38.4%).

The odds of having a maximum temperature at or below freezing (32°F) on Groundhog Day is 36% (53 out of 146), and the odds of having a minimum temperature at or below freezing is 83% (122 out of 146).  The odds of having a minimum temperature at or below 0°F on Groundhog Day is 4% (6 out of 146).

In 2020, the high temperature was 54°F (tied for 9th warmest) and the low temperature was 31°F.  A total of 0.03" of precipitation fell, with 0.2" of snow.  There was no snow on the ground at 7 AM.  The average wind speed was 12.5 mph, with a maximum speed of 26 mph out of the northwest.

Morgantown, WV:

The following statistics comprises 148 years of data. From 1873 through July 1946, the data came from a cooperative observer in the Morgantown area with occasional periods of missing data. Since then, the data has come from the Morgantown Municipal Airport-Walter L. Bill Hart Field.

Groundhog Day in Morgantown, WV
(Period of Record 1873-2020)
1981-2010 Normals
Records
Maximum Temperature
40°F
Warmest High Temperature
67°F
February 2, 1915
Coldest High Temperature
11°F
February 2, 1971
Minimum Temperature
24°F
 
Warmest Low Temperature
47°F
February 2, 1990
Coldest Low Temperature
-6°F
February 2, 1971
Average Temperature
32°F
 
Warmest Average Temperature
56°F
February 2, 1989
Coldest Average Temperature
2.3°F
February 2, 1971
Precipitation
0.09"
Wettest
1.20"
February 2, 1925


The odds of having any precipitation at all on Groundhog Day is 61% (80 out of 132).  There has been measurable (0.01" or greater) precipitation on 56 Groundhog Days (42%) and trace amounts (less than 0.01") of precipitation on 24 Groundhog Days (18%). 

The odds of having a maximum temperature at or below freezing (32°F) on Groundhog Day is 29% (39 out of 134), and the odds of having a minimum temperature at or below freezing is 77% (103 out of 134).  The odds of having a minimum temperature at or below 0°F on Groundhog Day is 4% (5 out of 134).

In 2020, the high temperature was 57°F (tied for 10th warmest) and the low temperature was 34°F.  A total of 0.03" of precipitation fell.  The average wind speed was 8.5 mph, with a maximum speed of 20 mph from the southwest.

Zanesville, OH:

The following statistics comprises 125 years of data. From 1896 through July 1946, the data came from a cooperative observer in the Zanesville area with occasional periods of missing data. Since then, the data has come from the Zanesville Municipal Airport.

Groundhog Day in Zanesville, OH
(Period of Record 1887-2020)
1981-2010 Normals
Records
Maximum Temperature
38°F
Warmest High Temperature
65°F
February 2, 1903
Coldest High Temperature
8°F
February 2, 1951
Minimum Temperature
21°F
 
Warmest Low Temperature
41°F
February 2, 1983
Coldest Low Temperature
-13°F
February 2, 1951
Average Temperature
30°F
 
Warmest Average Temperature
49.3°F
February 2, 1988
Coldest Average Temperature
4.0°F
February 2, 1971
Precipitation
0.08"
Wettest
1.22"
February 2, 1988


The odds of having any precipitation at all on Groundhog Day is 62% (77 out of 124).  There has been measurable (0.01" or greater) precipitation on 54 Groundhog Days (43.5%) and trace amounts (less than 0.01") of precipitation on 23 Groundhog Days (18.5%). 

The odds of having a maximum temperature at or below freezing (32°F) on Groundhog Day is 32% (40 out of 124), and the odds of having a minimum temperature at or below freezing is 81% (101 out of 124).  The odds of having a minimum temperature at or below 0°F on Groundhog Day is 8% (10 out of 124).

In 2020, the high temperature was 58°F (tied for 6th warmest) and the low temperature was 35°F.  No precipitation fell.  The average wind speed was 12.1 mph, with a maximum wind speed of 28 mph out of the west.


Groundhog Weather History:


Below are some weather events that took place on this day:

  • In 1904, a strong arctic cold front moved caused temperature to plunge across the region, with many sites seeing their largest diurnal temperature difference for the day on record.  This includes Pittsburgh, PA falling from 44°F to 5°F; Zanesville, OH, falling from 46°F to 4°F; Morgantown, WV falling from 45°F to 0°F; and Cambridge, OH falling from 48°F to -5°F.  The largest difference was recorded near Oakland, MD where the temperature fell from 46°F to -13°F, a 59 degree change!
  • In 1958, a nor'easter produced heavy snow across the higher terrain of West Virginia and Maryland.  A COOP site 3 miles southeast of Parson, WV saw a record 7.5" of snow for the day, with Canaan Valley, WV receiving 8". 
  • In 1961, a secondary arctic front dropped out of the Great Lakes into northwest Pennsylvania, dropping temperature in the area to record low values for the day.  This includes -26°F 3 miles southeast of Indiana and 3 miles southwest of Clarion; -24°F 2 miles southweast of Tionesta Lake; -21°F 1 mile north of New Castle, 4 miles south of Ford City Dam, and 2 miles southeast of Putneyville Dam; and -20°F in Franklin.
  • In 1966, widespread snow fell across the region.  In PA: near Natrona Lock (6"), near Braddock Lock (5"), Vandergrift (5"), Sagamore (4"), Mckeesport (3").  In OH: Senecaville Lake (5"), Norwich (4"), Summerfield (4").  In WV: Terra Alta (7.5"), Rowlesburg (6.5"), Parsons (6"), Canaan Valley (4").  In MD: Savage River Dam (5"), Bittinger (3.5").
  • In 1971, arctic air kept area temperature well below freezing, with most sites staying below 20 degrees and many recording the lowest max temperature for the date. This includes Terra Alta, WV (2°F), Dubois, PA (3°F), Tionesta Lake, PA (4°F), Franklin, PA (7°F), Pittsburgh, PA (10°F), and Morgantown, WV (11°F). 
  • In 1981, deepening low pressure over the Central Plains caused warm, moist air to surge over the region, leading to widespread heavy rains.  Hannibal Locks and Dam in OH saw 1.88" of rain while Roseville, OH saw 1.68", both of which were daily records.  Other sites setting a daily record include Mckeesport, PA (1.39"); Lake Lynn, WV (1.25"); and Franklin, PA (1.21").
  • In 1985, the combination of a deep continental trough and surface low pressure moving up the Atlantic coast help to produce widespread snowfall, favoring the higher terrain.  Daily record snowfall accumulations were set in Fairmont, WV (6.5"), the Point Marion Lock, PA (6.1"), and Oakland, MD (6.0").  Other notable totals include 8" in McHenry, MD, Uniontown, PA, and Brandonvile, WV; and 7" in Canaan Valley, WV and Chalk Hill, PA.
  • In 1988, widespread heavy rain ahead of a passing cold front led to 1 to 2" accumulations over much of southeastern Ohio into western Pennsylvania.  Among the daily rainfall records set include: the Braddock Lock, PA (2.30"), near Indiana, PA (2.09"), Cambridge, OH (1.83"), Beaver Falls, PA (1.48"), Steubenville, OH (1.32"), and Zanesville, OH (1.22").
  • Three of the four highest daily snowfall accumulations at any site in the region occurred between 2017-2019.  They are 9.1" near Davis, WV in 2017; 8.5" near Mountain Lake Park, MD in 2019; and 8.0" at Laurel Summit, PA in 2018.