Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Groundhog Predicts Early Spring for 2016, Scientists Predict Early Spring for Century

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Groundhog Day ushers in my least favorite time of year. The sparkle of the holidays is boxed up and stored away until November (I start early) and the mud season of March is just around the corner. February is usually beset with snowstorms, freezing temperatures, grading, and grey skies. Few romantic poets had very much to say about February. I would have trouble writing a haiku about the month (although I attempt it below). I've never sat through the movie Groundhog Day because I find the whole idea of early February unfortunate, especially if I have to repeat it for the rest of my life. Give me a beach day in July to repeat over and over and I would be very happy.

Groundhog Day is hardly a holiday to inspire us this time of year. If the groundhog sees its shadow (if it is sunny) winter will last 6 weeks or more. If it is cloudy, spring will come early. The hardest part of the holiday is imagining 6 more weeks of winter. Winter is certainly an agreeable season at first, particularly through the first snowstorm when one is bundled inside with hot chocolate. But as the winter progresses and one finds rotten halloween pumpkins thawing from the bottom of giant piles of ice in March, winter loses its charm.

This year, while we are enjoying spring-like weather on Long Island, the groundhog passed the common core exam by predicting an early spring. This was a test that the groundhog could not fail this year due to the especially warm winter in the northeast. The poor creature didn't need a cheat sheet to get the answer to the question. 

Of course the groundhog has been rather unreliable some years. One year as the polar vortex came and planted itself over much of North America the groundhog was especially off. When a rodent has one job to do one would think it would perform it accurately. In New York our rats are rather good at ensuring that fallen pizza is not wasted (see this). You would think that a more advanced rodent with climatological skills would have a better record.

Overall, science has been much better than the groundhog in predicting subtle changes in planetary temperature (see the visual graphic on the lower right of the NASA site here). I suggest that we all go to NASA's Websites every February 2nd instead of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to get our long term climate forecast. Perhaps February 2nd should be renamed Climate Day to inspire greater awareness about our planetary atmospheric physics and chemistry.



A Haiku by Bob Brinkmann

Grey skies and Earl Grey.
Cold and snow. Slush and salt. Slide.
Ice. Frozen litter.

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