Feb 3, 2009

Punxsutawney's Florida loophole

Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his hole on Monday to clear skies and the sight of his shadow.

That makes it a “case closed door shut” case: Six more weeks of winter for the folks up north.

Or is it?

As a hydrologist I come from a carefully schooled tradition of pulling all the facts in first and then making judgment.

After doing just that – reading the newspapers, scouring the photo archives, and studying the film – I’ve come to a surprising but confident verdict:

The AP reports are wrong and that was not the “real” Punxsutawney Phil … but rather a carefully rendered impersonator!

Where was the real Punxsutawney?

Obviously in south Florida – in Tampa, on the fifty yard line, three rows back, at the game he wouldn’t miss for anything in the world, not even for Groundhog Day:

Super Bowl XLIII and his Pittsburgh Steelers.

Don’t forget that Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is located just 90 miles down the road of Pittsburgh. That’s dead center Steeler country in the geopolitical landscape of the National Football League.

The implications are as profound as they are foot warming, and northerners everywhere can rest assured:

Winter is over.

Punxsutawney Phil woke up Monday morning in south Florida to the sight of a thick blanket of clouds in the sky, with a periodic spattering of rain, and most critically:

No shadow!

Were his spirits dampened by the rain?

Of course not: 

He was beaming in the bright euphoric sun stream of his beloved Steelers winning their record setting 6th Lombardi Trophy.

The irony here is that I went way out on a ledge last week and all but guaranteed a sunny Groundhog Day for south Florida.

At the time it looked like the closest thing you’ll see to a meteorological sure bet:

It’s been a “dry” dry season this winter for the south peninsula, and with the winds recently shifting to La Nina, the chances of rain or clouds on Groundhog Day seemed remote.

But I was wrong.

A day later I sat on the fence in the way of making a Super Bowl prediction, as my style as a hydrologist and sports fan wait for the rain and water data and/or box score to be filled in before making a call.

In conclusion:

The real Punxsutawney Phil, if he exists, wasn’t in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania on the Monday where it was sunny, but down in south Florida where the clouds and rain were out in full force.

Does that really mean an early spring is on the way?

Here's to wishful thinking for everyone up north that the steel curtain of winter has passed its peak.

And to "steel curtain" fans everywhere: 

Congratulations on being this years champ, and standing alone at the peak as the best franchise in league history.  

Click here to see more hydrologic images from Watery Wednesday.


Anonymous said...

The explanations are too hard for me to understand but the photos are great.

Judy said...

My grandmother used to say that if the groundhog did not see his shadow, then it was only another month and a half till spring! She had her bases covered!

Unknown said...

So that's who stole our tickets to the game!

Deborah Godin said...

They have groundhogs giving predictions now in places where the little critters don't even live, so I imagine their body clocks are all messed up!

2sweetnsaxy said...

Good post. The base of the tree in that last photo is amazing.

George said...

I'm so glad Phil was at the game. When can I expect warmer weather?

kden said...

I love the old tree with water at it's base.

Betsy Banks Adams said...

Gosh Bob.... I think I saw "Phil" at the game... In fact there were alot of Steeler fans dressed up like groundhogs.... My My!!!!! Wonder which one was Phil????

EG CameraGirl said...

It's sad, but Wiarton Willie, our local central Ontario albino groundhog, saw his shadow. So the rest of North America may get an early spring, but here we're stuck with winter for six more weeks. ;-(

v said...

thanks for the great info. I enjoyed the post.

DeniseinVA said...

Such an interesting post, always a treat to come to a blog and learn something. Thank you for all the information and for the great photos.

Carletta said...

I smiled all the way through this post - very clever!

I'll just add YEAH STEELERS!

Tammie Lee said...

I think we are going to have to wait and find out about spring, sure looks like winter around me. But hey that first and last image, well they are wonderful.

BNS said...

Very entertaining post. I now have visions of Punxatawney Phil lolling on a Florida beach, tall cool drink in hand, er, paw.

Bobbie @ The Right Blue

Reader Wil said...

Great photos and now I know what a groundhog is. We have no groundhogs in the Netherlands. This morning I got up and saw that it had been snowing during the night. Everything is covered in a thin layer of that white stuff. So spring is still far away.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comments.

My thesis, that not only did the Steelers win the Super Bowl, but that they also performed an even more impressive feat by ending winter (I love the image of Punxsutawney whiling away the day on a Florida beach) may be hard to believe this week, after the gusher of cold air plunging down from Canada.

By the way, I had an extended conversation with a Canadian yesterday. We had a good laugh how Canada gets blamed for all the cold air and he shook his head in disbelief that I didn't know the capitol of Canada: Ottawa. I vowed to brush up on my Canadian geography and never hold another cold front against them: in Florida of course we love them.

walk2write said...

You should come up with a commercial for the Steelers showing Phil celebrating the victory, dressed in his tropical attire. This post was very funny!

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Rob: Oh how I wish I could go along with this one. It was an excellent hypothesis, but alas,I think wrong. We have had snow on the ground since January 3RD and even after the melt from Sun the last three days. We are in the midst of 6" of more snow. The Steelers brought Sunshine for three days but Winter is back in full force.
I'm afraid even the fake Phil saw his shadow and we have 6 more weeks of Winter to come. Alas, it is our northern fate. I'm linking this into my site later today.

Janie said...

Real Phil or fake, I think we're not ready for prime time spring in Utah quite yet. But then, the west has a mind of its own in the weather department.

Celeste said...

Hmmm, so what you are saying is, that both you and Phil got it wrong! :) I am pretty sure that here in Chicago, shadow or no shadow, we will get another six weeks of icy chill!

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Rob: I did link your post today, hope this gets you a few more readers.

maryt/theteach said...

Robert, I can't believe a seagull swiped a toy from your son's hand unless it had food on it. I'm glad he's okay now... BTW I was in south Florida last week and have been blogging about it on my other blog: Work of the Poet We visited Everglades National Park and got the entire story of the Everglades reconstruction project which hasn't been put into effect yet and that it better be soon. I loved the Everglades (took lots and lots of pix) - it must be an hydrologist's dream or nightmare depending on how you look at it.

Also Staten Island Chuck (oh you've never heard of him?), the groundhog up in the NYC area, predicted that Spring was on its way. Punxsutawney Phil was wrong all the way around.

I rooted for the Cardinals :(

Coy Hill said...

Well winter may be over for your “imposter” Punxsutawney Phil but up here in Pa it’s COLD!

Maybe that’s why I posted a southern Florida photo tonight, wishing I was there.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comments.

From what I am hearing, it sounds like every area has its own rendition of the groundhog, so Punxsutawney Phil isn't the only woodchuck in town. But he may be the most famous of the group ... if also not the most accurate.

Jo Castillo said...

Robert, so interesting ... and educational. I dropped in from you visiting my blog via fishing guy's blog. We were rooting for the Cardinals, too. Just 'cause of Kurt Warner and our daughter. We don't follow football anymore. Anyhoo, I will be back once in a while! Looks like fun. I'm not sure anyone in Texas worries about the groundhog either. Hmmmm.