Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Early Spring - Happy Groundhog Day!

7AM UPDATE: Shubenacadie Sam did not see his shadow this morning in Nova Scotia and is predicting an early Spring.

If Candlemas be fair and bright, 
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, 
Winter will not come again

Tuesday, February 2nd is Groundhog Day across North America, the midway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. I love the day because, at the very least, it brings everyone into my weather circle for just a few moments. Groundhog Day can trace its humble beginning to Germany in the 1700s and the Festival of Candlemas The superstition stated that if the weather was sunny on Candlemas, February 2ndone could expect six more weeks of winter; if cloudy, an early spring would occur.

The origins of the day in North America date as far back as 1887. In Pennsylvania, German settlers thought that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, an animal would cast a shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. The Germans watched a badger for the shadow, however in Pennsylvania, the groundhog was selected as the replacement.

Nowadays, we have numerous groundhogs across North America who claim weather supremacy. Wiarton Willie in Ontario, Shubenacadie Sam in Nova Scotia and Punxsawtawney Phil in Pennsylvania remain the most popular. As we wait for this year`s predictions, think about the quote on Phil's accuracy via Inner Circle VP and handler Mike Johnston, "He is not burdened with the necessity to be site-specific. So Phil's predictions are unquestionably accurate.” Well, in reality, according to Stormfax.comPhil has an accuracy rating of 39% over the years and has seen his shadow 87% of the time. I have never thought of the day as holding any scientific accuracy, but I love the fanfare just the same.  In any event, shadow or now shadow, as Canadians, either way would be a bonus for us here in Montreal. If winter ended in six weeks, that would be about four weeks ahead of normal! Canadians are all too familiar with how harsh the weather can be at the end of March and start of April. 

For a more informed and scientific opinion I turn to the monthly Environment Canada media bulletin for January 2016, and meteorologist Andre Cantin who stated, Will we have an early spring? It is early to say categorically, but the probabilities are in our favour because, in the past, most winters influenced by El Niño have ended earlier than average. However, Mother Nature can always surprise us with major spring storms. Do not put your shovels away too soon!! 

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