In the United States and Canada, there is a popular tradition whereby on February 2, people will gather around the burrow of a groundhog. When the groundhog emerges from its burrow, if it looks at its own shadow then it is alleged that there will be another six weeks of winter, but if it doesn't look at its shadow then winter is over and we can welcome in Spring. This is a tradition that persists to this day, being most popular in the town of Punxsutawney Pennsylvania, where some 40,000 people gather each year to watch the chosen groundhog (which they allege to be over 100 years old). An endearing tradition indeed.
While I think it goes without saying that technological innovations and the presence of satellites have made analysing and predicting the weather a far more accurate affair than awaiting the movements of a jittery rodent who may or may not be afraid of its own shadow, it is a far less fun way of predicting the weather. Who among us could say that we would not rather, at the end of the news when they are throwing to the weather, to instead of being greeted by a sparkly-eyed meteorologist hovering in front of a greenscreen, but instead were we to be shown to a live broadcast from outside a small mud burrow in a hill. A live reporter would stand by the damp, dark opening, the smell of musty earth wafting from below, and await the emergence of what lay within. After the brief sounds of scuffling we would see movement in the shadows, and out from the burrow would pop the confused head of Teresa Mannion. Her nose would twitch as she sniffed at the air, eyes darting for predators or any inclement weather that she may be forced to broadcast from. After a moment, when her eyes had adjusted to the light, she would scamper clear and disappear over the horizon to forage for the day's food. The reporter would then, having witnessed this, turn triumphantly toward the screen and declare with satisfaction, "Winter is over! Teresa did not so much as glance toward her shadow!"
I think we could all agree - save perhaps Teresa Mannion - that this would be a vastly more enjoyable state of affairs for predicting the weather. Though it may seem unfair, I think we all know that, if push came to shove, and RTÉ had to select an employee to live the life of a groundhog in the name of weather reporting, it would be Terersa.
Sadly however, these halcyon days remain but an indistinct possibility. Unfortunately we must content ourselves with, albeit technologically profficient methods that are utterly lacklustre in their appeal. And, as of now, they have issued a yellow weather warning for the entire country that will be in place from Friday 6am - 8pm. The national weather-forecaster is warning of the possibility of storm force winds along coasts around the country between these times.
While temperatures have improved since last week they also warn that there will be heavy showers accompanying this and the possibility of sleet on higher ground.