When a Groundhog Sees His Shadow
El Nino and Groundhogs -- ReRunning History by George Ruger
Did you catch Groundhog predictions this year? As the tradition goes, if he sees his shadow, that means six more weeks of winter. If not..well you know the story. This year, the most famous groundhog in the United States, Punxsutawney Phil, was brought out of his cage in Gobbler's Knob, PA and he did not see his shadow. That would indicate an early Spring! Of course, there are other famous groundhogs around the Northern Hemisphere, such as Staten Island Chuck in NYC, General Beau Lee in Georgia, and Shubenacadie Sam in Canada. All of them agree on an early Spring. I'm in!
While the tradition of Groundhog Day can be fun, along with watching reruns of Bill Murray's movie of the same name, there is a little more to the weather patterns than that. (That was no endorsement for seeing the movie: viewer discretion is advised.)
There are also cyclical patterns in weather such as El Nino and La Nina. Each can last for several months up to a whole year and tend to alternate in five to ten-year cycles. El Nino events are caused by a warming of the Central and Eastern Pacific Ocean while La Nina events are caused by a cooling of those areas. The El Nino is causing some of the unusual weather patterns that we are seeing now.
Parts of the west Coast, in particular, California, have been experiencing a drought for about five years now. However, the El Nino is creating a situation where large amounts of rain have been falling in parts of the state and above average levels of snow are accumulating in the mountains. In some areas, localized flooding has gotten so bad that it is pushing the storm drain system to the limit. Recognizing that the drought may be a long term issue, some city planners have been looking for ways to divert some of this storm drain runoff into pools where it can be used later. Finding that balance can be very difficult for everyone.
By comparison, on the East Coast, we have been experiencing warmer than normal temperatures and very little snow. Some meteorologists show the El Nino line falling right across the Hudson Valley: a pattern we saw a few weeks ago when the winter storm hit. However, large single snowstorms have fallen in the past, including the Blizzard of 1983 which stretched from the Mid-Atlantic up to Southern New England during a similar El Nino. We have also seen a rise in temperature this time of year. Remember the spring time weather we had on Christmas day? This week we have watched temperatures in the 50s.
I'm turning down the heat at home, something to be VERY happy about!
I get my weather tips in part from the Hudson Valley Weather team, check them out!
headlining photo by: By Cephas - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0