Groundhog sees his shadow--six more weeks of winter?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:24 PM GMT on February 02, 2008

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Punxsutawney Pennsylvania's famous prognosticating rodent, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow this morning. According to tradition, this means that a solid six more weeks of winter can be expected across the U.S. From the official web site of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, groundhog.org:

Here Ye! Here Ye! Here Ye!

On Gobbler's Knob on this fabulous Groundhog Day, February 2nd, 2008
Punxsutawney Phil, the Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of all Prognosticators,
Rose to the call of President Bill Cooper and greeted his handlers, Ben Hughes and John Griffiths.

After casting a weathered eye toward thousands of his faithful followers,
Phil consulted with President Cooper and directed him to the appropriate scroll, which proclaimed:

"As I look around me, a bright sky I see, and a shadow beside me.
Six more weeks of winter it will be!"


I'm hesitant to disagree with a forecaster of Phil's stature, but I see only about of week of hard-core winter left over the U.S. The 16-day run of the GFS model shows the jet stream retreating to a position in southern Canada in about a week, which will usher in mild temperatures for this time of year across most of the U.S. The latest 1-month outlook from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center shows an above normal chance of warmer than average temperatures across a large portion of the U.S. for February.

How did this this crazy tradition start?
It all started in Europe, centuries ago, when February 2 was a holiday called Candlemas. On Candlemas, people prayed for mild weather for the remainder of winter. The superstition arose that if a hibernating badger woke up and saw its shadow on Candlemas, there would be six more weeks of severe winter weather. When Europeans settled the New World, they didn't find any badgers. So, instead of building wooden badgers, they decided to use native groundhogs (aka the woodchuck, land beaver, or whistlepig) as their prognosticating rodent.

The Groundhog Oscillation: convincing evidence of climate change
According to a 2001 article published in the prestigious Annals of Improbable Research titled, "The Groundhog Oscillation: Evidence of Global Change", Punxsutawney Phil's forecasts have shown a high variability since 1980. This pattern, part of the larger "Groundhog Oscillation" or GO cycle, is convincing evidence of human-caused climate change.

Jeff Masters

Albino Groundhog (pincollector1)
Canada's famous albino groundhog named Wiarton Willy from the town of Wiarton, Ontario. Whether or not he sees his shadow or not will determine an early Spring.
Albino Groundhog

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76. thunder01
8:18 PM GMT on February 04, 2008
Excellent point, MichaelSTL.
The current La Nina is still quite strong (certainly the strongest we've seen in years). It is also notable for the odd distrbution of SST anomalies, especially over the western half of the Pacific. That 1988 vs. 2008 map is very telling--the range of strong negative anomalies is actually quite staggering when one sees them over the entire basin. Because, as you mentioned, cold ENSO events (La Ninas) store heat in the deeper reaches of the ocean, the upswing of the thermodynamic pendulum has the potential to be extremely impressive (imagine those negative SST anomalies translating into positive anomalies of a similar magnitude over a similar area. Wow.) If we do get an El Nino of that magnitude, well, let's just say that it would be an interesting 18 months to come...

I'll have a new seasonal forecast up on Weather West at some point in the next 2 weeks, and it'll consider the influence of the ongoing La Nina regime...
Link
75. MichaelSTL
7:07 PM GMT on February 04, 2008
I would definately say that the groundhog was wrong:

Spirit Of St. Louis Airport
Lat: 38.66 Lon: -90.63 Elev: 462
Last Update on Feb 4, 12:54 pm CST
Mostly Cloudy
Temperature: 74°F (23°C)
Humidity: 54 %
Wind Speed: SW 15 G 23 MPH
Barometer: 29.64" (1003.5 mb)
Dewpoint: 56°F (13°C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi.

Amazing how fast snow melts when it is in the mid-70s... the normal high is only 41 (and I wonder why I have NEVER seen a high or low that was 30 or more degrees below normal, much less a daily average, while highs/lows/days that are 30 or more degrees above normal are a dime a dozen)?
Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
74. leftovers
7:04 PM GMT on February 04, 2008
Hello everyone. One of the nicest winters I experienced in E Cent. Fl. Very pleasent weather. No more red tide zero so come on down if you need a break from the cold. Good surf too.
73. listenerVT
5:59 PM GMT on February 04, 2008
VERMONT: The New Connecticut

We would truly miss the sugar maples.
And with the level of unexplained bat deaths this year,
the mosquito population would explode.

EEK!

I want my sub-zeros back!!
Member Since: July 11, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5522
72. listenerVT
5:57 PM GMT on February 04, 2008
mobal...

Yeah, that is a rather, er, playful term, isn't it? LOL!
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71. listenerVT
5:56 PM GMT on February 04, 2008
{ { { Hope you're feeling better soon Storm! } } }

Take care. ♥
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70. mobal
5:18 PM GMT on February 04, 2008
Groundhog Oscillation, LMBO!!
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68. listenerVT
4:43 PM GMT on February 04, 2008
magnitude9...

Do you have a celebration and call it Marmot Day?
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67. listenerVT
4:39 PM GMT on February 04, 2008
Thanks, Dr. Masters.

Usually I say,
If the groundhog sees his shadow we'll have six more weeks of winter
if not, it's just another month and a half. Ha!

But ONE more week? That would be unprecedented here in Vermont.

Candlemas is not only a holiday that was observed in England,
it is still observed by several denominations today.
It was when a lot of people made their last batch of candles for the winter.
So they needed some idea of how hard to work that day! Ha!
I still hand-dip candles each year on Candlemas.
(A tradition we started while studying the American Revolution, home schooling.)
They make great Valentines or Easter gifts.

One more week? Can't wrap my mind around that. Nosirree.
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66. listenerVT
4:34 PM GMT on February 04, 2008
Puerto Rico had a 5.0 quake this morning!

How are all our peeps down there?

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsww/Quakes/prp0803501.php
(Sorry...the "Link" button is not functioning for me today. It's worth a cut and paste.)
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65. magnitude9
4:31 PM GMT on February 04, 2008
Out here in Washington we call them Marmots.
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64. biff4ugo
3:50 PM GMT on February 04, 2008
I think we need a more indepth Groundhog Oscilation report on April 1st.

Hope everybody had a great weekend.
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 115 Comments: 1589
60. Inyo
6:03 AM GMT on February 04, 2008
It has been a La Nina but indeed January was wet for most of California including LA.

Feb. isn't looking quite as wet but we'll see!
Member Since: September 3, 2002 Posts: 42 Comments: 873
59. MichaelSTL
5:32 AM GMT on February 04, 2008
And the question about this being caused by la nina, ok, sure, let's say it is...what caused la nina...? since is a cooling of the equatorial waters of the Pacific...folds into my initial post about the sun being quiet (less output=more cold)


Hmmm... How come 2007 had the hottest land temperatures ever recorded??? Land cools down faster than water... so if low solar output were the cause of the cooling over the last year, than land would have cooled down far faster (not to mention, solar activity is rising, according to this - also note that the biggest solar cycle was in the 1950s... how come global temperatures rose since then?)

As for La Nina, it is caused by a natural fluctuation (Southern Oscillation). The 1988-1989 La Nina occurred as solar activity was increasing (and the 1997-1998 El Nino was in a solar minimum, I don't really see any correlation between ENSO and solar activity).

In addition, even as La Nina cools the surface of the ocean, massive amounts of heat are being absorbed beneth the surface (the Pacific absorbs heat during La Nina and neutral periods and releases it during El Ninos; all of the El Ninos, one every other year over the past 5 years (2002, 2004, 2006, usually every 3-7 years or so) likely depleted the Pacific of heat):



As long as the trade winds remain strong (like right now), that will be kept in check... but I have to wonder what kind of El Nino we might see if that 6 *C anomalies water moves east...



Also, as for some not-so usual effects, some La Nina winters have been wet in the Southwest, even as the summer is usually dry (as I posted before about California's worst floods occurring in La Nina winters, despite typically dry conditions). Also recall that the last El Nino brought extreme drought instead of rain, seems like ENSO is no longer having the usual effects, at least for the Southwest U.S (there is also still drought - it apears to be shifting into the Plains states this year, especially Texas and Oklahoma - actually similar to 2006 which began with a La Nina, although a much weaker one, too early to tell if an El Nino might develop later this year, especially not until around June due to the "predictability barrier").
Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
58. CybrTeddy
3:05 AM GMT on February 04, 2008
Oh dang, Wilma was horrid, I Mean, every single Hurricane that i have been hit by were eaither near CAT-5 or CAT-5 (Floyd, Isabel, Wilma) Isabel was the scariest, because it was so watch, and it was so scary to see that it was maintaning CAT-5, I was so scared that it might ram into my house with 175 mph winds. Wilma being tied with Isabel, not only the fact that it was the strongest Atlantic hurricane to ever form in the Atlantic, it was like a 3 hour fly to were it was. I was scared that it going to hit us directly, (GFDL said this, oh boy scary)
Floyd bing the fact for no apparent reason, turned from hitting Florida, strait into me. (Yes i know why it turned, but this scared me into beyond scared.)
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57. Cavin Rawlins
2:12 AM GMT on February 04, 2008
Gene looks alot like wilma appraching s fl.
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56. Cavin Rawlins
12:38 AM GMT on February 04, 2008
Tropical Cyclone Gene.....dry air intrusion broke down the core of the storm earlier but has since then rebuild back the northern (northeast to be specific) "eyewall".

MODIS TERRA high resolution image of the center of Gene at 2208 UTC 3 FEB 2008.
http://img221.imageshack.us/img221/3172/eyeofgenemr5.png





12.5 km resolution quikscat

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
55. HrDelta
12:37 AM GMT on February 04, 2008
For anyone living in the New Orleans Metro I have a question. I heard that the MRGO is going to be dammed up. Is work progressing on this, and if it is, how close to done are they?
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54. Cavin Rawlins
12:09 AM GMT on February 04, 2008
Strong quake in Africa kills at least 40: officials, hospitals
03/02/2008



KIGALI (AFP) - A strong earthquake shook the African Great Lakes region on Sunday, killing at least 34 people in Rwanda and six in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to officials and hospital sources.

Houses crumbled and deep cracks spread up the walls of buildings in the centre of Bukavu in DR Congo, near the epicentre of the quake which measured 6.0 on the open-ended Richter scale.

People ran out of churches packed for Sunday mass as the walls shook.

"According to the figures I have at the moment, 34 people are dead," said Rwandan local government minister Protais Musoni on Sunday afternoon.

The quake struck at 0735 GMT some 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of the DR Congo town of Bukavu.

Across the border to the east, Radio Rwanda said 10 people were killed "straight away when a church collapsed" in the Rusizi district of Western Province and 13 others died in Rusizi and Nyamesheke districts.

Local authorities in the DR Congo said six people had died in the Sud-Kivu region, according to UN-sponsored Okapi radio.

Provincial health officer Manou Burole said 55 people had been wounded there.

Several dozen injured were admitted to the city's general hospital and at least 12 casualties to the Panzi hospital, medical sources said.

Radio Rwanda said 250 wounded were transported to various regional hospitals, and a witness in Rusizi district said public buses were used to transport the casualties.

Rwandan minister Musoni said that the provincial governor was on site and that the police and army were helping with rescue operations.

"Rescue operations are continuing to try to pull people out of the ruins of their houses," he said.

In the DR Congo town of Kabare, north of Bukavu, the walls of a church collapsed on the congregation during the mass, injuring 37, including five seriously, priest Leon Shamavu told AFP by telephone.

A first shock, which lasted around 15 seconds, was followed by two lesser aftershocks, residents of DR Congo and Rusizi said.

"People are panicking so much they're afraid to return home. They're afraid of being surprised by aftershocks and prefer to stay outside," a Rusizi resident told AFP.

The quake was also strongly felt in neighbouring Burundi, south of Rwanda, Francois Lukaya, a scientist at the Goma observatory in North Kivu told AFP.

All Burundian hydroelectric dams stopped, causing a half-hour power cut, a water authority official said.

The quake also shook the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, around 120 kilometres south of its epicentre.

"I felt a very strong shock shake my house. The walls shook really hard," a resident told AFP.

It was one of the "biggest earthquakes ever recorded in the Kivu region," Lukaya told AFP.



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53. Tazmanian
11:43 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
hi
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52. StormMan
11:15 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
MichaelSTL,

Your last statement about drier than normal south of I80/Tahoe, I thought it has been very wet through out California, LA basin, San Diego, go a little east, AZ, NM...

My overall point of my initial post was to point out there is a lot of coldness going on.

And the question about this being caused by la nina, ok, sure, let's say it is...what caused la nina...? since is a cooling of the equatorial waters of the Pacific...folds into my initial post about the sun being quiet (less output=more cold)



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51. BtnTx
10:54 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
Super Bowl Game weather:

http://www.wunderground.com/cgi-bin/findweather/getForecast?query=zmw:85305.1.99999

Link

Later I found out roof is closed so weather won't matter...
Member Since: October 12, 2001 Posts: 20 Comments: 891
50. BtnTx
10:22 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
Bump as per Taz. I think its about an hour before Super Bowl kickoff. What's the forecast?
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49. MacLorry
9:55 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
"The Groundhog Oscillation: convincing evidence of climate change"

Why not? It's about as scientific as the IPCC.
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48. Tazmanian
1:09 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
bump
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47. sporteguy03
7:58 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
well we did have a crippling cold snap in Central FL and the coldest in 5 years too!
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46. Starwoman
7:57 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
Can't you guys send some of that snow over?
Here were I live we have defenitely to little (Allthough in the mountains there is plenty). I want to use my new snowshoes.....
*s*
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44. MichaelSTL
6:28 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
Here is a map of the anomalies in the Nino 3.4 region over the last week (Jan 25-Jan 31):

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43. NorthxCakalaky
6:05 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
Last Friday Ice Storm recap for North Carolina.

# Schools were either closed or in some cases where I live a 2hour-delay.

#Some mountains got over a half-inch of ice and lost power when the winds picked up.

# Airplane from Atlanta,G.A crashed over the foothills of N.C killing all pasengers.

# I have never seen such "Heavy Freezing rain".Trees fell and blocked some of the roads and banks beside the road were froze and portions of the porch where the water was not runing so fast were froze.Also, the vehicals were froze.

6more weeks to go.
42. MichaelSTL
5:57 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
31. StormMan 7:31 AM CST on February 03, 2008
KMan,

I appreciate your question..but, most of those links I posted were for weather items that are unique over an extended time period, several are records unbroken for 40-100 years. If just a La Nina vent would not be as notable. Plus, this La Nina vent is not only fairly weak it is practically over if you check the temps on the eastern side of the Pacific.



LOL... You obviously don't know anything...

Compare to the record 1988 La Nina:



1988 0.7 0.5 0.1 -0.3 -0.9 -1.3 -1.4 -1.2 -1.3 -1.6 -2.0 -2.0
1989 -1.8 -1.6 -1.2 -0.9 -0.7 -0.4 -0.4 -0.4 -0.4 -0.3 -0.2 -0.1

Weak? Over? ROTFL... Nino 3.4 at an ice bath -2.2 degrees C (Nino 1 2 hardly counts, as you can see from its size and location - during the 1998 La Nina it was still well into the El Nino range until the end of 1998 and even then only briefly went significantly negative)...



Oh, as for California:

According to Kelly Redmond of the Western Region Climate Center in Reno, all of California's top 10 floods occurred during La Nina winters. Potential weather impacts for California include a jet stream farther north than usual and below-average precipitation from about Interstate 80 and Lake Tahoe south into Southern California.
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41. hahaguy
5:26 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
ya geek we're the lucky ones lol
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40. HurricaneGeek
9:21 AM GMT on February 03, 2008
hmmm...winter? here, todays like is like 83 lol. LOL

Same area as hahaguy and hurricane23
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39. Tazmanian
4:23 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
what is the forcast for wind shear overe the next few weeks???
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38. Cavin Rawlins
4:08 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
surfmom, thanks....
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37. SBKaren
2:59 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
Well, it sure still feels like winter here today in southern California. Under rainy skies and it has been downright cold this winter so far. I wouldn't mind a bit of moderate temps for a while. Guess we'll just have to wait and see what really happens.
Member Since: February 21, 2005 Posts: 195 Comments: 14583
36. Alleyoops
2:56 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
Wiarton Willie says the winter that has ravaged most regions of Canada this year will give way to an early spring.

The country’s most famous weather prognosticating rodent failed to see his shadow when roused from his slumber this morning.

An early spring is also the prediction of Canada’s other famous groundhog, Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam. But Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil disagreed. He saw his shadow when roused from his slumber by his handlers.

Staten Island Chuck is calling for an early spring. He apparently saw no shadow on emerging around 7:30 this morning from a small house at the Staten Island Zoo. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced the creature’s finding.

Guess most of us are in for an early Spring while others will still see nasty weather..Glad its not here....
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35. surfmom
2:56 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
STormW - if your on Good morning and as always great appreciation for your weather updates...I've been quiet, working too many hours, but I ALWAYS LOOK for your forecasts!!!! :)
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34. surfmom
2:54 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
Vry nice synopsis W456 - Love the infor on the Gulf.
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33. surfmom
2:53 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
Well, i am hoping that Dr.M is correct --I've already had enough cold fronts. Looking forward to surfing without the rubbersuit on. Glad to see the regulars still on & posting. Been swallowed up by work at the Polo Club. Not looking for the hot temps. of summer (the horses in FL suffer so) but living in the 70's would be a pleasure. What I am curious about - is RAIN --do any of you weather "pros" see a wet spring/summer??? Pastures are so dry, grass and hay are very poor and difficult to find.
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32. Cavin Rawlins
2:10 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
....SYNOPSIS....

GULF OF MEXICO/NORTHWEST ATLANTIC OCEAN WEST OF 50W....

A broad 250 hpa zonal west-southwesterly flow has develop across the Southeast Portion of the Continental United States in associated with an upper trough across the Rockies and an upper ridge over the Caribbean. This flow is advecting a swath of broken to scattered cloudiness and showers from Northern Mexico across the Southern Plains and into the Deep South and Atlantic Corridor. Meanwhile, a weak ridge protrudes across Gulf of Mexico region providing exceptionally fair weather across the Gulf waters and surrounding regions of Mexico, the Yucatan and the Florida Peninsula. The return flow is also providing an onshore flow, which is enhancing the moisture plume outlined earlier.

A broad ridge is analyzed across the Atlantic based on satellite imagery and surface observations through 1330 UTC. The region lies within the downstream area of the upper ridge across the Caribbean providing for a stable troposphere...thereby fair weather dominates. Patches of shallow cloudiness and brief showers is seen within the moist but thin surface layer.

CENTRAL AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN REGION....

Trades have really increased across the Caribbean due to the merger of the Bermuda and Azores ridge. This is creating an influx of tradewind moisture and chilly air into the Caribbean with linear patches of cloudiness and passing showers moving from the Atlantic, across the Lesser Antilles, through the Caribbean basin and then across the Central American Terrain. The cloud features become more broad and deeper west of 70W indicating more heating and moisture transfer below the cloud bases here.

by W456

==========================

Tropical Cyclone Gene - SE Pacific - Infrared Imagery

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
31. StormMan
1:31 PM GMT on February 03, 2008
KMan,

I appreciate your question..but, most of those links I posted were for weather items that are unique over an extended time period, several are records unbroken for 40-100 years. If just a La Nina vent would not be as notable. Plus, this La Nina vent is not only fairly weak it is practically over if you check the temps on the eastern side of the Pacific.

Or just observe how much precip has been happening in California/Arizona and the deep south...a strong La Nina would have those places mostly dry, right? Over the past several weeks each has received weekly storms.

Or consider that 2007's records in the Southern Hemisphere occurred previous to this most recent La Nina episode (snows in S.America and S.Africa)

A prolonged "near-neutral" period with volatile SST conditions has clearly been replaced by more or less stable La Nina conditions in place since late August 2007.
Member Since: August 15, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 61
30. KoritheMan
9:43 AM GMT on February 03, 2008
StormMan: How do you know most of that stuff isn't from La Niña? I don't know all of the effects it has on land, but I do know that the snow in China may have been influenced by La Niña, which is quite strong at the moment.
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29. KoritheMan
9:42 AM GMT on February 03, 2008
It may be warm for the next month (based on forecasts and outlooks), but I wouldn't be surprised if we have another major freeze in late March or April, like the last two years (particularly bad last year because it was later and followed a near record warm March, with several billion in crop losses).

I didn't think about that when I posted. Come to think of it, that may actually happen. Talk about freakish cold. Last year's March/April freeze was some of the coldest air I've had to endure, since Louisiana doesn't get cold all that much.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 596 Comments: 21013
27. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
5:22 AM GMT on February 03, 2008
oh man, he saw his shadow.. he should have been where I live. (it was cloudy most of the day) HAHA
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26. MichaelSTL
4:28 AM GMT on February 03, 2008
I don't see winter lasting even 2 more weeks, much less 6...

It may be warm for the next month (based on forecasts and outlooks), but I wouldn't be surprised if we have another major freeze in late March or April, like the last two years (particularly bad last year because it was later and followed a near record warm March, with several billion in crop losses).
Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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