Not My Father’s Ground Hog’s Day

February 2, 2013

This would have been my Dad’s birthday.
He was once Chairman of the Republican party in this county – an influential one in the state.  He’d be horrified, sick, and fascinated by what we are seeing from that quarter today.

Which leads to my next question.
If we’re already having july-in-january thunderstorms in Michigan, can there really be 6 more weeks of winter?

The Atlantic:

With the non-winter we’ve had here on the East Coast, this year, Punxsutawney Phil could not have done his job right no matter what the little guy predicted. “This is the most philosophically perplexing Groundhog Day ever,” noted CNBC’s John Carney. This year, our furry meteorologist “saw his shadow,” meaning six more weeks of winter. But, what does that mean when the winter hasn’t happened? We can’t have six more weeks of something we haven’t had. Perhaps six more weeks of non-winter is ahead. “Six more weeks of winter would imply there has been one in the first place,” adds @globeandmail. Groundhog Day has become a paradox. Phil can’t have the right answer, making his job basically obsolete.

This isn’t about right or wrong, it’s about the ability to be right or wrong. Historically, our groundhog hasn’t correctly predicted winter’s final stretch, with about a 40 percent success rate,according to The National Climate Data Center. Of course, this isn’t science, it’s tradition, but, with the erratic seasons, he can only fail, making the tradition a lot less meaningful.

Climate change is what’s making things difficult for Phil. Even the Union of Concerned Scientists suggested we move Groundhog Day to earlier in the winter.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania has announced that Groundhog Day will be pushed forward eight days to January 25 in 2012 in recognition of the impact climate change has had in the region.

Ok, so this was an April Fool’s day Joke. But still, it’s a joke that could save Phil’s job. “If Punxawhatever Phil is paying attention to the data (which would put him well ahead of your average Congressman), he knows the average northeast winter is 2 weeks shorter than it used to be,” journalist and environmentalist Bill McKibben told The Atlantic Wire, directing us to varioussites that confirm Phil’s possible fate. Like a lot of Americans these days, we bet Phil would like very much to hold on to his job during these wintery—though spring-like—economic times.

19 Responses to “Not My Father’s Ground Hog’s Day”

  1. Our flora in the northeast require subfreezing temperatures for a certain amount of time every winter in order to flourish. It won’t take too many years of non winter before we may be seeing massive die-off of our traditional plants and trees. Maybe when people look at their yards and see all their expensive shrubs failing they will start screaming bloody murder.

  2. astrostevo Says:

    “He was once Chairman of the Republican party in this county – an influential one in the state. He’d be horrified, sick, and fascinated by what we are seeing from that quarter today.”

    From what I gather, the Republican party (USA) sure has gone downhill a very loo-oong way. 😦

    I don’t quite know why this depresses me so much but it does.

    • astrostevo Says:

      Overton window has shifted way too far too.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      “Republican party (USA) sure has gone downhill a very loo-oong way. ”

      in my lifetime, from “I am not a crook”, to
      “I am not a witch”…

      • skeptictmac57 Says:

        The interesting thing to me is that the “not a crook” would today be demonized as a socialist tyrant,trying to ruin big business with his fascistic EPA and burdensome regulations,and cozying up to the Chinese commies.Oh,and Nixon also wanted healthcare reform.
        Not your dad’s GOP for sure!

  3. Wes Says:

    My father, an avid conservative Republican, would have been 107 next Wednesday. I remember watching the 1951 GOP convention on our brand new tiny-screened black & white TV, my brother and I, and cheering for war hero Eisenhower. My dad, a strong Taft supporter, grumbled, while my Mom kept her peace and quietly voted for whoever she wanted – could have been Stevenson as she made up her own mind, thank you very much.

    Dad would not recognize today’s GOP, even as conservative as he was. As a thinking man, the spectacle of the fact free primary debates would have horrified him. And Ike left the White House reminding us to beware the military-industrial complex. Were he here today, he’d be saying “I told you so.”

    Personally I think Obama is very much like Eisenhower. He governs from the middle, he takes flack from both sides, and he ain’t perfect. Obama has not yet grasped the seriousness of climate change, the potential for runaway leading to a mass extinction. Yet every week it seems there’s a new paper reporting a new positive feedback that’s worse than anyone thought. I really hope he’s up to the challenge. We’re deciding today what the human population of the Earth will be in 2100. I’d be interested in what the rest of you think that number will be.

    • rayduray Says:

      Re: “We’re deciding today what the human population of the Earth will be in 2100. I’d be interested in what the rest of you think that number will be.”

      I’m not much of a soothsayer about the future. But I can extrapolate from the pas and the present.

      1) The oceans today contain about 2% of the biomass of commercially pursued species as it did in the year 1900.

      2) The forests of the planet contain about 30% of the merchantable timber that they held in the year 1900.

      3) Reserves of oil and natural gas are about 40% of what they were in 1900.

      4) Reserves of arable virgin untilled land are about 5% of what they were in 1900.

      5) In 1900 about one calorie of work produced one calorie of food. In today’s intensive industrial agriculture, one calorie of food is produced for every 10 calories of petrochemical based energy applied as ag inputs.

      6) In 1930, the price of a barrel of crude oil in Texas was 10 cents. Today it is about $97.00 while Brent trades at $115.00. We’re barely at the end of the era of cheap oil.

      7) Indian agronomists determined in recent crop studies that a 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature reduces the yield of Indian rice crops by 10%. We are confidently predicting that on present course the temperature of the planet will rise by a minimum of 2 degrees C. and more likely 5 degrees C. with some plausible scenarios calling for a rise of 10 C from today. This would be the end of agriculture as we know it.

      So what can be said about the population in 2100? They will certainly be much more impoverished, malnourished and aggressively competitive than today’s population. I am personally having a hard time seeing how the population of the planet could ever exceed 8 billion on present course. And once it reaches a climax over-shoot population, there will be mass starvation, massive amount of conflict and the rise of a number of national security state apparatuses vying for the diminishing resources of a dying planet.

      • Wes Says:

        Thanks for the supporting stats. I completely agree with your conclusions. So many of the articles deal with only one issue almost in isolation, but the human race will have to deal with all of them cascading together, and doing it sooner than most of the articles estimate.

        • rayduray Says:

          In his book “Collapse”, Jared Diamond lists 12 separate upcoming crises for complex civilizations. Eight of the twelve have already taken their toll on the Easter Island, Mayan or Babylonian civilizations.

          And Diamond missed a big one. His book was written before we learned that the acidification of the oceans is already making reproduction of shellfish from phytoplankton to oysters much, much, much more problematic than was the case in 1900.

          Essentially, phytoplankton provide 50% of the breathable oxygen in our atmosphere. Scientists note that since 1980 that phytoplanton concentrations have diminished by 40%. It doesn’t take a genius to do the math and realize that humans surviving in 2400 are likely to be on supplemental oxygen from cradle to grave living as close to sea level as possible (higher altitudes won’t support human life), while sea level will have risen by 70 to 100 feet and destroyed human coastal infrastructure.

          • Wes Says:

            Just when I think it can’t get worse, the facts intrude. Again, this whole picture with all of the ramifications is not being widely disseminated. That’s why it’s not higher on the public’s radar.

          • rayduray Says:

            Re: “Just when I think it can’t get worse, the facts intrude. ”

            Ha ha. I might have to steal this line. 🙂

            Yes, that light at the end of the tunnel? It’s probably not the dawning of a new day, eh?

            Doing a bit of research on impending depletions of critical metals and elements, we find that platinum is indipensible to maintaining air quality in a world of petrochemical pollution. And we’re rapidly running out of the stuff:


            Same with uranium, coltan, and dozens of other essential metals and compounds for our high tech world.

            Perhaps the world will simply unravel in the next century.

            Some see a much, much simpler future for a much small populace than at present:


  4. daveburton Says:

    Here in eastern NC, it was in the low 20s (F) last night. ‘Twern’t a fit night out fer man nor beast.

    But up in Michigan the plants which are dying off are automobile plants, breakfast cereal plants, etc., not fruits & vegetables & shrubs & grasses & trees. I just pulled up my old home in Google Street View, and the house looks terrible, but the yard and trees and neighborhood are every bit as lush and green as they were 40 years ago, maybe even more so.

    Decades of labor domination of Michigan were a catastrophe for the Water Winter Wonderland, which is probably why Michiganders have finally given full control of the State government to the Republicans. (Aside: I’m a former member of the American Federation of Grain Millers (AFL-CIO), otherwise known as The Union That Killed Twinkies.)

    • greenman3610 Says:

      We’re still a water wonderland, not so much winter, for lack of consistent snow.
      Take a closer look at the satellite images, and you’ll see the toxic algae blooming in Great Lakes that are warmer than ever, and at record low levels.
      But, relying on satellites, you may have missed that the auto industry was dying, and was revived with help from the Obama administration – that GM sprang back from bankruptcy to number one in the world, saving millions of jobs, and that the auto companies are having success selling cars that are increasingly more energy efficient and economical.
      The headlines in the papers nowadays are about new jobs, new plants. In fact, Michigan was the nations number one job creator for a couple years in the recent past.
      We’ve not yet recovered the glory days of the 1950s and early 60s, when, of course, we had the strongest union representation, and much higher tax rates on the wealthy, than now, but perhaps we might look at that era for some inspiration. Ike Eisenhower, of course, would be expelled from today’s GOP – there’s no room for sages and war heroes in the party of Sara Palin.
      Now, the question is, will we build on the success of recent years and become the nation’s manufacturer of renewable technologies.
      The tea party folk like yourself, are, of course, agin’ it, and working hard to lower incomes among the middle class – I know because my wife is one of those teachers so vilified for teaching subversive “facts”, “history”, and “science” to children – despite resistance from the tea party dominated, and soon-to-be replaced, legislature.

  5. […] 2013/02/02: PSinclair: Not My Father’s Ground Hog’s Day […] If we’re already having july-in-january thunderstorms in Michigan, can there really be 6 more weeks of winter? […]

  6. Jeremy Nathan Marks Says:

    I really don’t know what to say to all of this.

    I appreciate the very well-informed posts and the thoughtful comments everyone is sharing. But I am left very depressed what is transpiring around me.

    We are having winter here in Southwestern Ontario, though we are prone to massive temperature fluctuations and we also have had a January thunderstorm, as in Michigan. We had a very cold snap followed by a very warm snap. Our snowpack is low but our temperatures are largely “seasonable.”

    Still, I keep wondering how many more snowy winters I will witness. Last year was especially startling; we had temperatures in the 80s in March. I asked around and no one from this area (London, ON) could ever remember anything remotely approaching the heat wave of March 2012.

    I keep writing letters; I keep trying to conserve energy; I try to drive as little as possible; I vote for politicians who I believe will try and take action on climate change. . . and I will continue to do so. But I am very sad about what I am seeing. Sad and quite apprehensive.

    • rayduray Says:

      Hi Jeremy,

      Re: “But I am very sad about what I am seeing. Sad and quite apprehensive.”

      Well then why not enjoy the doom-and-gloom with a sense of humor? I’m very much appreciating the lively conversation at Nature Bats Last:

      We’re watching the end of the world (for Western capitalist style mass consumption madness). It’s fascinating. We’re going to have all kinds of marvels that we can witness.

      • Jeremy Nathan Marks Says:

        I think I will have to check it out. 🙂 Thank you for the recommendation.

      • Jeremy Nathan Marks Says:

        I checked Nature Bats Last Out and I love it. Thank you for this. I will be following it from now on.

        • rayduray Says:


          I’m glad you found Nature Bats Last to be of interest. A friend of mine has also attempted to persuade me to subscribe to the Dark Mountain Project with Paul Kingsnorth.

          This has proven to be a bit more of a stretch for me. Though the general drift (i.e. that industrial Western culture is rapidly racing toward the inexorable cliff) is the same.

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