Weather predicting rodent: why February 2nd is significant

groundhogSpring seems so far away, yet it is almost time for Punxsutawney Phil, Staten Island Chuck, General Beauregard Lee, and many others to emerge from their winter den to predict the weather for the remainder of winter. While there is not much actual science behind the holiday, this rodent’s prediction is highly coveted as the hope for an early end to the icy, snowy weather is anticipated.

Where did the idea for this holiday come from? February 2nd has been a significant day in winter for centuries. This date reflects the midpoint of winter, halfway between the solstice and the equinox. From the Pagan holiday (Ibolc) to the Christian holiday (Candlemas), many past celebrations have marked this midwinter point.

The first mention of weather prediction on Candlemas day comes from the Germans. This date was also a day for the farmers to assess their feed supply, and predict if they would have ample supply for the remainder of the season, or skinny cows come spring.

The early German settlers brought their weather predicting traditions to America. Instead of a hedgehog, or a badger the groundhog fit the bill to be woken from his hibernation and predict the duration of the remaining winter. The first reference to Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania was in 1841, the first reporting in the newspaper was in 1886, and the first time Punxsutawney Phil emerged from Gobbler’s Knob was one year later in 1887.

Through 2013 Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow 100 times predicting more winter, and only 17 times has he predicted an early spring. What will the prediction be in 2014? Find out at 7:30 on Sunday morning.

Celebrate with this groundhog coloring page! And learn more in Prairie Storms by Darcy Pattision.

February-Coloring-Page-72

 

Information for this post gathered from http://www.groundhog.org/, and mental_floss http://mentalfloss.com/article/29889/where-did-groundhog-day-come.

Why is it so cold?

Images of frozen fountains and bundled up commuters have flashed across the news this week from all over the United States. Meteorologists are talking about a polar vortex bringing many states sub zero temperatures. Naturally as a children’s science book publisher, we need to know why?

Polar Vortex

After some research we found that the polar vortex does not exactly live up to its ominous name. It is not an arctic tornado, a destructive winter storm, or anything that we can see with our eyes. It turns out the polar vortex is just very cold air that is moving in a different direction!

High up in the atmosphere this cold air is a permanent weather pattern that keeps the North Pole frigid. Occasionally this pattern weakens and plunges into the United States causing the jet stream to bring extremely cold air as far as the Southern states. Much of the Midwest and Northeast has been hit hard with sub zero temperatures, but weather patterns are constantly changing and new temperatures are just around the corner!

For more in-depth information visit Weather Underground http://www.wunderground.com/news/polar-vortex-plunge-science-behind-arctic-cold-outbreaks-20140106

The Calm After the Storm

Over the past few weeks, we have experienced a lot of showers and storms rolling through the Mount Pleasant area. Lucky for us, we have been busy inside the office, but it brings up the question what happens to the animals during or after a storm?

A recent news article from FOX 25 in Oklahoma City discusses one organization, Wild Care Oklahoma, that has taken in over 700 animals since the end of May. Wild Care has stepped in to provide care for many animals directly affected by the damaging tornadoes, many of which were babies. The recent storms hit during the peak of “baby” season. This left many young animals orphaned in the aftermath of the tornadoes. A litter of skunks, two racoons, and species of birds, turtles, coyotes, and foxes have been taken in by Wild Care after the destructive storms hit. The organization’s Facebook page frequently posts pictures and videos of their in treatment or newly released animals each day. I highly recommend checking out this page and all the adorable animal babies! You can also check-out ways to help Wild Care or their upcoming events.

Also, Author Patti R. Zelch in her book Ready, Set…Wait!, illustrated by Connie McLennan, gives insight into what happens to animals during storms. This picture book follows nine different wild animals as they sense, prepare, and react to an approaching hurricane. Definitely a good read for a rainy day inside!

Image

Link to the Wild Care Oklahoma Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/WildCareOklahoma

Wishing everyone a good day and stay dry wherever you are!

Celebrate Groundhog Day!

PrairieStorms_Pic1What do John Dalton, Al Roker, and Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog have in common? They’re all famous weathermen! Groundhogs, which also go by the name woodchucks, are ground squirrels related to chipmunks and prairie dogs. They live in the North East of the United States and in Canada, where they feed on wild grasses and insects and live in burrows they dig for themselves. Sometimes the tunnels that make up their homes can interfere with the homes of humans by making the ground under buildings unstable. Some farmers and homeowners get mad at Groundhogs for damaging their property. However, other people believe that Groundhogs provide a useful service for humans: they predict the weather!

In the 1800’s, German immigrants in Pennsylvania started a tradition where, every February 2nd, they watched the behavior of a special Groundhog to tell them how soon Spring would begin. They would gather around the weatherman-Groundhog’s burrow and watch as he emerged. If the day was sunny, the groundhog might see his shadow, become afraid, and retreat into his burrow. According to the tradition, this is his way of telling people that Winter will last for another six weeks. If the Groundhog doesn’t see his shadow and leaves his burrow, then Spring will come early! Instead of using graphs and images for his weather forecast, the Groundhog communicates with his emotions!

This tradition was “Candlemas” to the German immigrants, but now we know it as “Groundhog Day.” Every February 2nd, people still look to famous Weather-Groundhogs such as Punxsutawney Phil, Western Maryland Murray, and Chattanooga Chuck to tell them how soon spring will come. The weathermen-Groundhogs are never completely accurate with their predictions, but then again, neither are human weathermen!

Learn more about groundhogs in Prairie Storms by Darcy Pattison and click on the picture below to print this great coloring page by Kathleen Rietz.

February-Coloring-Page-72