25/03/13 12:58 Filed in: Forced Guest Post
A shadow of a different kind is hanging over Punxsutawney Phil.
Authorities in still-frigid Ohio have issued an "indictment" against the famed groundhog, who predicted an early spring when he didn't see his shadow after emerging from his lair in western Pennsylvania on February 2.
Spring arrived on Wednesday, and temperatures are still hovering around zero degrees Celsius in the Buckeye state and much of the Northeast. While it's not the coldest spring on record, it's a good 5 degrees below normal, said Don Hughes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio.
So the heat is on against Phil, and the furry rodent has been charged with misrepresentation of spring, a felony "against the peace and dignity of the state of Ohio," wrote prosecutor Mike Gmoser in an official-looking indictment.
"Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that spring would come early," Gmoser declared.
So what's the penalty?
Death, Gmoser said, tongue firmly in cheek.
That's "very harsh," given the nature of the allegations, said Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney club that organises Groundhog Day.
The backlash to Phil's dead-wrong prognostication has not gone unnoticed in and around his hometown of Gobbler's Knob, Deeley said, and security precautions are in place.
"Right next to where Phil stays is the police station," he said. "They've been notified, and they said they will keep watching their monitors."
The chubby-cheeked animal also has his defenders. "Phree Phil!" declared one supporter on his Facebook page. "We're with you, Phil," wrote another.
As for spring, there's no relief in sight from the wintry conditions. A storm moving into the region Sunday could bring between 4 and 8 inches of snow, said meteorologist Hughes.
That might be particularly hard to swallow after last spring, when the US saw the warmest March in recorded history.
While Gmoser's indictment made no mention of any co-conspirators in the false early spring prediction, the state's own groundhog forecaster, Buckeye Chuck, also failed to see his shadow when he emerged from his burrow.
The graph above shows the temperature changes of the lower troposphere from the surface up to about 8 km as determined from the average of two analyses of satellite data (UAH and RSS). The best fit line from January 2002 to February 2013 indicates a decline of 0.03 Celsius/decade. The sharp temperature spikes in 1998 and 2010 are El Nino events. The Sun's activity, which was increasing through most of the 20th century, reached a magnetic flux peak in 1992. The Sun has since become quiet, causing a change of trend. The temperature response is delayed about a decade after the Sun's peak intensity to about 2002 due to the huge heat capacity of the oceans. The green line shows the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, as measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The two red lines show global cooling periods between 1979 and 2002.