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Old 02-03-2007, 10:53 AM   #1
Jesse Joe
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Shubenacadie Sam, Nova Scotia's most-famous groundhog weatherman, peeks out from his house at Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park yesterday. Sam didn't see his shadow which means spring should be just around the corner

Groundhog consensus: it's an early spring

The perils of global warming weren't lost on Canada's most famous four-legged weather forecaster yesterday as Wiarton Willie predicted an early end to a late winter that had many Canadians wondering if it would ever come at all.

As the world's leading climate experts met in Paris to declare global warming "unequivocal" and its cause man-made, this central Ontario town's pudgy albino groundhog emerged from hibernation to add his considered opinion.

"(Melting ice) in the Arctic, Pacific Rim typhoons out of season, snow storms in California," town crier Bruce Kruger bellowed in his preamble to Willie's appearance before hundreds of curious onlookers.

"Yes, Wiarton Willie is not only a prognosticating expert, but has fast become aware of global warming - he takes this great matter into his calculations."

Willie's verdict? Spring is just around the corner, and with it warmer temperatures.

Nova Scotia's furry weather forecaster, Shubenacadie Sam, and Pennsylvania prognosticator Punxsutawney Phil made it unanimous yesterday when they, too, failed to spot their shadows.

Kruger said Willie has been discussing his concerns about climate change with Wiarton Mayor Gwen Gilbert.

In fact, Willie wants to strike a summit of his own on global warming, said Mac McKenzie, who founded the Wiarton festival 51 years ago.

"He's asking for one groundhog from each of our provinces to meet here next year and say, 'OK, we're going to see how this is going,' " said McKenzie.

However, all the levity amid dire warnings about the seriousness and severity of the world's climate-change crisis left some weather experts feeling a little cold.

"Groundhogs have never got it right . . . (and) they won't get it right, even in a changed world or altered climate because you can't take a moment - a slice of a time - and say that is a trend," said Environment Canada climatologist David Phillips.

"Climate is about statistics of weather, it's about trends - it's not about a single weather episode or a season or a month. It's all about looking over a longer term period, maybe 30 years or a decade, and making some sense of it."

Phillips said he finds it much more fascinating that in the last 40 Canadian winters, 38 have been milder than normal.

Folklore has it that if a groundhog sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, he'll flee to his burrow, heralding six more weeks of winter - if he doesn't, it means an early spring.

In Shubenacadie, a bewildered Sam emerged from his custom-built enclosure near Halifax to the sound of the bagpipes and a town crier and with a light snow falling.

"We had a great hurray . . . because we're going to have an early spring," said Sue Penney, a spokeswoman for Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources.

Punxsutawney Phil was greeted by more than 15,000 revellers who milled about in a misty snow waiting for the prediction, as fireworks exploded overhead and music blared in the background.

Sammi Gainor, 17, said she and her father Richard first attended the Punxsutawney ceremony four years ago.

"Since then, it's really been just good memories of things I do together with my dad," Gainor said.

Added her father: "It's just kind of fun seeing people go so crazy about a groundhog."

Since 1886, Phil has seen his shadow 96 times and searched in vain 14 times. There are no records for the remaining nine years, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

The last time Phil failed to see his shadow was in 1999.

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Didn't see his shadow, and today here it's a snowstorm... Never beleived in it, just wanted to post the Superstition...

[ February 03, 2007, 10:12: Message edited by: Jesse-Joe ]
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Old 02-03-2007, 01:43 PM   #2
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did you see the Discovery airing of "Day of the Groundhog"? neat, they visit 4 communities each claiming to have the authoritaative 'spring forecaster'...i'm a willie fan
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Old 02-03-2007, 02:14 PM   #3
Jesse Joe
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No jj I did not see that program. But I have heard a lot about Willie.

[ February 03, 2007, 15:49: Message edited by: Jesse-Joe ]
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Old 02-05-2007, 07:52 PM   #4
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I didn't see the program either.I just wanted to let you know that we have our own version of 'Punxsutawney Phil'.His name is 'Dunkirk Dave'.
According to 'Dave'-six more weeks of winter.
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