Each year, on February 2nd, many people in the United States and Canada celebrate Groundhog Day. According to the legend, if the groundhog emerges from its burrow and sees its shadow, there will be 6 more weeks of winter. If the ground hog doesn’t see its shadow, then spring will come early. Punxsutawney Phil, from Punxsutawney Pennsylvania, is one of the most famous weather predicting groundhogs. Unfortunately Phil has only been correct 39% of the time.

Scientists at UW-Milwaukee and Cornell University are trying to improve on the spring forecasting ability of groundhogs. They have created a tool called Springcasting that uses observations of plant life cycles as well as temperature forecasts to predict when spring will happen across the United States.

This featured project has two options for learning about Phenology:

  • For girls aged 4 – 12, you can learn more about Phenology from this activity book from the USA National Phenology Network.
  • Older girls may want to explore great interactive maps, here. Using the map, find the predicted date of first leaf and first bloom for your hometown. Make a note of these dates, observe your environment and check the accuracy of the prediction.  If you enjoy this activity and are over 13, you can become an official observer and contribute data what will help scientists continue to improve their ability to forecast spring!

By the way, this year Punxsutawney Phil and the Springcasting team agreed – six more weeks of winter.

But we’re happy to say that as we look at the calendar today, it’s already March and we’re only a few days away from the official start of spring!