As portions of the United States shovel out from snow and ice and bundle up against a brutal cold snap, weather watchers across the U.S. are poised Saturday to hear whether they can count on an early spring, or six more weeks of winter.
But the accuracy of this annual forecast is dubious, as the prediction is made by a groundhog.
Feb. 2 marks Groundhog Day, when traditionally a Pennsylvania groundhog known as Punxsutawney Phil makes an appearance above ground, near the cozy tree stump he calls home. Legend has it that if he sees his shadow, North America is in for six more weeks of winter weather.
If not, spring will arrive soon.
Other furry forecasters
Punxsutawney Phil is the most famous of the furry prognosticators. Generations of groundhogs, which are members of the marmot family known as woodchucks, have been predicting the weather since 1887.
Records going back to 1887 show Phil has predicted many more winters than an early spring.
Other states have their own groundhogs, like Sir Walter Wally of North Carolina. In West Virginia, there is French Creek Freddie. Georgia has General Beauregard Lee.
Canada's most famous groundhog is Wiarton Willie of Ottawa.