Groundhog Day always takes place on February 2nd. The day is celebrated in America, because all hopes are pinned on a good weather forecast for the coming year. There are also animals in this country that are said to be able to predict the weather.
Some animals seem to be able to provide clues as to how the weather is developing in the short term. Then they adapt their behavior, for example to changes in temperature or humidity. However, neither these nor any other animals are capable of precise long-term forecasts – even if many peasant rules promise it. Some of these proverbs have persisted, giving rise to animal cults. A selection of animals said to predict the weather:
How long will winter last? Every year in the USA, a groundhog gives the answer to this question: In the small town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, all eyes are on Phil the rodent on February 2nd after his hibernation. If Phil sees his own shadow, it’s still six weeks of winter, they say, if not, it’s early spring. In the USA and Canada, the traditional Groundhog Day is celebrated in many places. The fact that Phil’s forecasts are mostly wrong is a minor matter.
Customs – “Groundhog Day”: And annually Punxsutawney Phil greets
Meteorologists in particular are nicknamed “weather frog” in Germany today. In the past, however, people used tree frogs to predict the weather – or at least tried to. When it’s warm, frogs climb up plants in search of insects without further ado put them in mason jars with small ladders. If the amphibian species climbs up the ladder, there should be good weather. However, the microclimate in the glass hides external influences, explains the German Weather Service (DWD). In addition, a frog can only tell the current state of the weather On a sunny morning, a frog cannot foresee a violent thunderstorm in the afternoon.
The brown bear is celebrated as an animal weather prophet in Serbia, Romania and Hungary. Popular belief is similar to the legend of the marmot: in February a bear is observed coming out of its den. If it returns to its shelter, the winter should last around 40 days. Every year, onlookers flock to the bear enclosures in the zoos. “The end of winter is in sight,” the Belgrade Zoo posted on its Instagram page last year. However, the whole thing has not been scientifically proven, writes the Budapest Zoo. You might as well flip a coin.
In English there is an old but still widely used saying that all cows lie down on the ground before it starts raining. However, people should not rely on this rain forecast, according to the Met Office, the United Kingdom’s weather service. As herd animals, cows tend to imitate the behavior of their fellow animals: When one is lying down, they all lie down quickly. And normally, cows lie down for more than twelve hours a day – regardless of whether it rains or the sun shines afterwards.
In China and Japan there are a lot of animal weather prophets, most notably the swallow. “If the swallows fly low, we will soon get rain,” it says there, but also in Germany about the birds. The farmer’s rule has a core of truth: Swallows like to eat insects. According to the DWD, these fly at higher altitudes in dry and warm weather, but rather near the ground in cooler, damp and windy conditions. There is sunshine on several days in a row, especially in stable high-pressure weather conditions. One beautiful day often follows the other. According to the DWD, when the high pressure subsides, many of the smallest organisms, including swallows, fly at lower altitudes. This can actually be an indicator for the weather. However, swallows also fly low for other reasons. About early in the morning, because then there are hardly any updrafts, even when the weather is nice.
The weather on Dormouse Day is intended to show the weather conditions for the seven following weeks. “If the edible dormouse is wet, it rains non-stop,” says a proverb in Germany, Austria and Switzerland on June 27th. What many do not know: the story originally had nothing to do with the rodent. It refers to a legend according to which seven Christian brothers were persecuted for their faith and immured in a cave. In English, on the other hand, the day was unmistakably translated as “Seven Sleepers’ Day”.