Local hibernation expert speculates on Phil's prediction

Posted: 7:00 PM EST Jan 31, 2013   Updated: 6:38 PM EST Feb 01, 2013

Punxatawney Phil will make his call Saturday morning on whether we have six more weeks of winter. So, what makes "Punxy" the weather authority that he claims to be?

Groundhog Day takes place on February 2 each year. The tradition dates back thousands of years to Europe.

Instead of a groundhog, however, Dr. Stam Zervanos, a hibernation patterns specialist, said a hedgehog was used.

When immigrants from Great Britain and Germany came to the United State, "the groundhogs were out around this time. There weren't any hedgehogs, so they used the groundhog," said Zervanos. "I think the first recorded record of Groundhog Day was in the early 1800s in Morgantown, Pa."

Zervanos and his biology students at Penn State Berks studied the hibernation patterns and behaviors of groundhogs.

"We learned that they really do come out during this time of year from hibernation, particularly for the males to set up their territories and to find out where the females are," said Zervanos.

Why does this tradition take place on February 2? Zervanos said the date has to do with astronomy.

"From the winter solstice to the spring equinox is halfway in between," said Zervanos.

According to tradition, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter. If not, we'll seen an early spring.

"We prefer the spring. Yes. Definitely too cold for us," said Tracy Druckenmiller, of Robesonia

Reading carries out its own tradition on Groundhog Day at the Pagoda. Starting at 7 a.m. Saturday, "Patty Pagoda" will be prognosticating.