Not sure what groundhogs might have witnessed when they climbed out of their burrow across the country, but the supposed bellwether rodent for the entire country, Punxsutawney Phil, crawled out of his hidey-hole in Pennsylvania this morning and saw his shadow, disappointing anyone who has had more than enough of this frigid winter.
In Northeast Tennessee, our groundhogs had more sense than to stick their bewhiskered noses out of warm burrows on a freezing, icy morning with snowflakes still fluttering down from an overcast sky. Perhaps Johnson City will see winter grind to a welcome close shortly. Not today, however, with the forecast indicating temperatures will not push out of the 20s.
My other go-to source of weather prognostication, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, agrees with the groundhog. “Temperatures will be much colder than last winter, but still above normal (an apparent nod to climate change).” That colder forecast applies to most of the Lower 48.
“The [groundhog’s] forecast aligns with that of AccuWeather's long-range meteorologists, who say cold weather will largely dominate throughout the month of February,” according to an AccuWeather release posted shortly after the renowned rodent made his unwelcome prediction.
Back to the pages of the OFA, the annual collection of weather predictions, stories of the odd, and recommendations for best planting and hunting times, offers promising news for precipitation, indicating “above normal in much of the country with above normal snowfall in northern and Central New England, from the Tennessee Valley westward to New Mexico [Southwest farmers and ranchers will be happy to know that the drought they have been experiencing is nothing more than a bad dream.] and in the central Great Lakes, the central Plains and the Intermountain region.”
More good news for the Southwest, summer will be cool and wet. “Rainfall will be above normal from the mid-Atlantic southward to Florida, in the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys and the Deep South, from Texas-Oklahoma westward into southeastern Arizona and the Pacific Northwest; it will be below normal elsewhere,” according to the OFA.
AccuWeather parts company with the OFA for Southwest precipitation chances, unfortunately. “Conversely, temperatures in the Southwest are predicted to climb well above normal, preventing storms from leaving much precipitation behind,” the release states, an observation sadly in line with what farmers and ranchers are reporting..
Unfortunately, the OFA might have missed the memo regarding the persistent La Nina. “With last winter’s weak La Niña most likely to be replaced by a weak El Niño this winter, cold air masses will be able to slide into the intermountain region that will have difficulty making inroads into the Northern Plains, Great Lakes or northeastern states.”
On the plus side for the OFA, a recipe for strawberry chiffon pie looks delicious. As far as I know, groundhogs are not particularly favorable table fare.