Of Folklore and Science   Leave a comment

Out on a limb, barely hanging on

February 2 is a big day for a small creature.  Lots of pressure rests upon the back of the above pictured groundhog.  And yes, while he’s enjoying the lovely spring weather in the tree in our backyard, a lot depends upon his interpretation of when that season arrives.

Since it’s really not fair to pin the entire nation’s forecast on one groundhog, many locations throughout the United States and Canada have their own local weather hog.  Their names usually reflect their hometowns, such as Punxutawney Phil (from Punxutawney, PA, where the movie Groundhog Day was set), or Staten Island Chuck (from Staten Island, NY), Balzac Billy (from Balzac, Alberta), Queen Charlotte (from Charlotte, NC) or Winnipeg Willow (from Winnipeg, Manitoba).

If it’s a cloudy day and the groundhog doesn’t see his shadow, it’s an early spring.  Should that sun be blazing away in the sky, well, that’s enough to discourage any groundhog from enjoying the weather and so our rotund rodent friend retreats to the burrow.  Counterintuitive?  Yeah, I think so.  I mean, why would anyone beat a quick exit from the sun unless they forgot their sunscreen?

Since I’m in the Hudson Valley, I generally take my predictions from Staten Island Chuck.  I seem to remember there being a closer chuck, but I didn’t happen to hear what his prediction might be for spring, so I’m sticking with SIC.  Seems that he called for an early spring and went back inside.  Or maybe he was a bit reticent in making any sort of prediction.  You see, last year New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio was invited to participate in the ceremony and held up the woodchuck/groundhog for the first time.  Upon holding said animal, it wriggled from his grasp, fell, and died a few weeks later.  This year?  Bill watched.

But really, I’d have to say I agree with what SIC predicted.  It seems like we’re on a Monday snowstorm schedule.  For the past few weeks, we’ve had snow, and just enough to close the schools and prevent me and Andrew from driving to work (but not from our desks at home).  It refuses to snow on the weekends, or if it does, it’s on Sunday evening when we’re attentively watching Downton Abbey.  The last thing I’m wondering is how I’m going to get to work, it’s how anyone finds Mary so fascinating when she’s got to be the least passionate, sex-craving person on the planet, and yet she attracts men in droves (it’s the money, surely).

I digress.

There is no weather science behind the groundhog, nor do they receive any special instruction from their elders that bestows upon them all the magical powers they’ll need to tell us to go get more salt for the driveway and gas for the snowblower.  It all came from a European tradition involving a badger.  Pennsylvania Germans began their tradition here in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with the first recorded prediction noted in 1841 from Morgantown, PA (he didn’t say what the groundhog thought about the weather, but I’m sure it wasn’t positive).

As far as I can tell, I’ve not seen any official recognition by the National Weather Service regarding the predictions of any of this nation’s groundhog prognosticating teams.  Given the nature of some of their recent predictions, however, one might think they’ve consulted Staten Island Chuck to see what his take on those clouds moving in from the south and east mean.

I’m going with SIC’s prediction for now: six more weeks.  After all, we’re expecting 6-12 inches come Sunday into Tuesday.

 

 

 

 

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