How to scientifically forecast the weather with a groundhog!

“Besides water, trees provide pure air. They are the great filtering machines for the human organism. They improve and transform the air in a way which is most favorable and most acceptable to the lungs of man.”~Richard St. Barbe Baker

Can you really scientifically forecast the weather with a groundhog???

Step One:
Where is a groundhog when you need them?

Groundhog (Marmota monax), has a plethora of names.  A groundhog can rightly be referred to as a woodchuck, or whistlepig, chuck, wood-shock, groundpig, whistler, thickwood badger, Canada marmot, monax, moonack, weenusk, digger and red monk and is a rodent of the squirrel family (Sciuridae) in a classification known as marmots. The groundhog is the largest squirrel found in its range, measuring in at 65 cm (16 to 26 in) long (which is inclusive of the 15 cm (6 in) tail) and weighing 2 to 4 kg (4 to 9 lb). In choice conditions, a groundhog may be as large as 80 cm (30 in) and 14 kg (31 lb). The groundhog can take to their burrow, climb a tree or swim away to flee from their predator. So how does a woodchuck compare to other common mammals in North America?

Groundhog - Marmota Monax Adapted from an image courtesy Cephas_CCxSA3-0
Groundhog – Marmota Monax Adapted from an image courtesy Cephas_CCxSA3-0

The American beaver (Castor canadensis) happens to be the largest rodent in North America weighing in at 11 to 32 kg (24 to 71 lb). The body from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail is 74 to 90 cm (29 to 35 inches) with the large flat tail adding another 20 to 35 cm (8 to 14) inches in length. Both Groundhogs and Beavers to get away from enemies and predators. The beaver’s entrance to the lodge or beaver dam is deep underwater as a defence against predators. The groundhog burrow opens up at the edge of a forest, near a tree or building.

American_Beaver Castor canadensis Adapted from image courtesy _Steve_CCxSA2-0
American_Beaver Castor canadensis Adapted from image courtesy Steve CCxSA2-0

Muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus), are about 41 to 64 cm (16 to 25 inches) in length, weighing in at .7 to 2 Kg (1.5 to 4 lbs). Muskrats love marshlands, and will make burrows or lodges out of cattails. In the water, they are distinguishable from the beaver as the muskrat tail will propel the rodent through the water by spinning around and around. The beaver’s tail lies flat behind them when swimming, or lowers in the water. The beaver’s tail is useful to sound a warning by lifting it up and slapping it down on the water surface making as large a noise and as big a splash as possible.

Muskrat Ondatra_zibethicus_Adapted from image courtesy AlexanderKlink_CCx4-0
Muskrat Ondatra_zibethicus_Adapted from image courtesy AlexanderKlink_CCx4-0

The badger’s name comes from the French word “becheur” which means digger.
Like the groundhog’s Latin name Marmota monax; Marmota meaning Mountain rodent, and monax meaning digger. Groundhogs do hibernate, but the American Badger (Taxidea taxus) enters into a torpor or deep sleep for perhaps up to three weeks. The American Badger is low to the ground measuring about 60 to 75 cm (24 to 30 inches) long with a weight of 7 kg (15 pounds). Badgers are belong to the family, Mustelidae and are mainly carnivorous. Badgers are not classified as rodents, but groundhogs, beavers, muskrats, and porcupines are rodents. And although one groundhog nickname is “thickwood badger”, the groundhog does not belong to the family Mustelidae, which only hosts the Muskrat, weasel, otter, ferret, and wolverine. Both groundhogs and badgers dig burrows, and have special adaptations for digging.

American Badger (Taxidea taxus) adapted from Image courtesy ODFW_CCxSA2-0
American Badger (Taxidea taxus) adapted from Image courtesy ODFW_CCxSA2-0

Porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum), are another commons North American rodent. the name from two Latin words porcus meaning pig, and spina, quill is very suitable. How does a porcupine compare in size to a groundhog? Well the porcupine has a round body 60 to 90 cm (2.0 to 3.0 ft), and the tail would add an extra 4.5 to 30 cm (5.7 to 11.8 in) in length. The stocky porcupine weighs in at 3.5 to 18 kg (7.7 to 39.7 lb though typically they are seen around 9 kg (20 lb). Porcupines don’t burrow like badgers, muskrats and groundhogs nor do they build burrows and dams like muskrats and beavers. Porcupines live in coniferous and mixed forests creating dens in hollow trees. Muskrats may be seen at dawn or dusk, and porcupines are mainly nocturnal, sleeping during the day up in trees. Where the badger is carnivorous, the groundhog, beaver and porcupine are herbivores. The muskrat is an omivore, mostly eating plants and cattails, but will eat aquatic animals to supplement their diet. The porcupine and beaver will eat tree bark, twigs, roots and stems along with other vegetation, the groundhog, also called a woodchuck, does not chuck wood, or eat trees.

Porcupine, Erethizon_dorsatum_Adapted from image courtesy Danielle Langlois_CCx3-0
Porcupine, Erethizon_dorsatum_Adapted from image courtesy Danielle Langlois_CCx3-0

Where a group of beavers is called a “colony”, and several badgers together are called a “cette” not a herd, or flock. Now then, a group of muskrats could be called a “colony, horde, pack, plaque or swarm.” Very appropriately a group of porcupines is called a “prickle”! There have been some discussions about what a group of groundhogs is called whether it is a “madness of marmots” or a” college of groundhogs”.

Groundhog or Woodchuck (Marmota Monax) Range shown in orange.  Adapted from Image courtesy -Anreyostr-CCx2-5_3-0.jpg
Groundhog or Woodchuck (Marmota Monax) Range shown in orange. Adapted from Image courtesy -Anreyostr-CCx2-5_3-0.jpg

Using these essential elements as a foundation to find a groundhog, take your first steps to locate this most excellent weather forecaster. Groundhogs are usually found in areas where forest opens up into a field, road or marsh. So a groundhog has different habitats, eating habits, size and lifestyle from other large mammal rodents in Saskatchewan. Have you spied a groundhog in Saskatchewan? What about a groundhog in Saskatoon?

How Can a Groundhog Forecast the weather, Scientifically?

How can the groundhog be a “meteorologist” and predict the weather? Is it possible, or is it just a myth? Do not resist delving deep into this myth, it just may be grounded in truth and meteorological science!!!

Groundhog day is February 2, and it is rather an excellent bit of folklore about predicting spring. During the winter months, if the day is sunny the weather will be cold and brisk. It is during a sunny day when the groundhog may indeed see his shadow, and the stark chilliness of the day, may indeed entice the groundhog to turn tail and return to the warmth of his burrow. On the flip side of the coin, in the winter, if the day is cloudy, the weather is warmer from the cloud cover trapping in the heat from the earth. Therefore, on a cloudy day, the groundhog cannot see their shadow as there is no sun to create a shadow, the day is much warmer, and the groundhog may spend some time outside of his burrow suggesting that an early spring is around the corner.

So can this really be a way to forecast if spring will be coming soon, (because the groundhog did not see his shadow)?  Or can it foretell if spring will be yet another 6 weeks away because the groundhog did in fact see his shadow?

Don’t take my word for it, this is what meterologist Nick Walker has to say about winter cloudy and sunny days; “Cloud cover on a winter night means you can expect warmer weather, because clouds prevent heat radiation that would lower the temperature on a clear night.” r So to further explain the difference between a cloudy day and a sunny day in the winter time. “If there are no fronts or precipitation nearby, the daily temperature cycle is primarily controlled by the radiation budget. This is a comparison between the incoming radiation from the sun (sunlight) and the terrestrial radiation given off by the earth’s surface (felt as heat.)”

Walker further expounds that “sunshine is only one thing that affects temperature, and in winter, it is far from being the main thing. … The cold air at Earth’s surface is very dense and heavy, so it’s hard for clouds to form in that cold sinking air. So sometimes in winter, skies are very clear and temperatures are very cold. Also, winter is the time of year that the angle of the sun, especially in the northern U.S. and Canada, is so low in the sky that there’s never enough direct sunlight to warm the Earth very much even at midday with clear skies. And if there’s snow on the ground, the snow reflects a lot of the sun’s energy away, preventing the ground from absorbing it. So temperatures end up cooler than if the ground were bare. Even if the ground absorbs some of the sun’s energy, the heat radiates back up into space with no clouds to keep it near the ground. So when you look outside and see sunshine, you cannot assume it’s going to be a warm day.”

Speaking of weather fronts and clouds, another interesting fact about how no shadow may forecast an early spring is that when there is “a low layer of uniform, dark grey cloud,” then the groundhog would not see their shadow. Furthermore, this solid mass of cloud blankets the sky, then “when it gives precipitation, it is in the form of continuous rain or snow. The cloud may be more than 15,000 feet thick. It is generally associated with warm fronts.”Pilot Friend

So there you have it, resistance is futile. This is how the groundhog myth or folklore actually works scientifically to predict the weather. The Groundhog Day story that if a groundhog sees his shadow, there will be 6 more weeks of winter is actually based in science due to the effects of a clear sky with no clouds. And the folklore which exists on Groundhog day that if the groundhog does not see his shadow would mean that February 2 is a warmer day, and the cloud cover may have formed in conjunction with an incoming warm front.

“Besides water, trees provide pure air. They are the great filtering machines for the human organism. They improve and transform the air in a way which is most favorable and most acceptable to the lungs of man.”…~Richard St. Barbe Baker

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Alongie, Jenise. Badger FActs. Animal Facts Encyclopedia. 2011-2017
American Badger. Wikipedia.

Badger Wikipedia.

Bradford, Alina. Facts about Muskrats. Live Science Contributor. Jan. 28, 2017.

Groundhog. Wikipedia.

How to Predict the Weather Without a Forecast

Meteorology – Clouds Pilot Friend.

Muskrats – Water loving Rats. Pictures and facts.

Names of Animal Groups

North American Beaver Wikipedia.

Walker, Nick. Winter and Cold Weather Previously Asked Questions. 2007 Small Gate Media.

North American Porcupine Wikpedia.

Odd names for groups of animals flash cards. Quizlet.

Porcupine. Wikipedia.

For more information:

Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area is located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada north of Cedar Villa Road, within city limits, in the furthest south west area of the city. 52° 06′ 106° 45′
Addresses:
Part SE 23-36-6 – Afforestation Area – 241 Township Road 362-A
Part SW 23-36-6 – SW Off-Leash Recreation Area (Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area ) – 355 Township Road 362-A
S ½ 22-36-6 Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area (West of SW OLRA) – 467 Township Road 362-A
NE 21-36-6 “George Genereux” Afforestation Area – 133 Range Road 3063
Wikimapia Map: type in Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area
Google Maps South West Off Leash area location pin at parking lot
Web page: https://stbarbebaker.wordpress.com
Where is the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area? with map
Where is the George Genereux Urban Regional Park (Afforestation Area)? with map

Pinterest richardstbarbeb

Facebook Group Page: Users of the George Genereux Urban Regional Park

Facebook: StBarbeBaker

Facebook group page : Users of the St Barbe Baker Afforestation Area

Facebook: South West OLRA

Twitter: StBarbeBaker

Please help protect / enhance /commemorate your afforestation areas, please contact the Friends of the Saskatoon Afforestation Areas Inc. (e-mail)

Support the afforestation areas with your donation or membership ($20.00/year).  Please donate by paypal using the e-mail friendsafforestation AT gmail.com, or by using e-transfers  Please and thank you!  Your donation and membership is greatly appreciated.  Members e-mail your contact information to be kept up to date!

QR Code FOR PAYPAL DONATIONS to the Friends of the Saskatoon Afforestation Areas Inc.
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Payment Options
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Membership with donation : $20.00 CAD – monthly
Membership with donation : $50.00 CAD
Membership with donation : $100.00 CAD

 

A single tree, a forest assembly

How much more deeply are we moved as we begin to appreciate the combined operations of the assembly of trees we call a forest

 

A couple of proposed symbols for the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area – One a stylized tree, the other the same tree symbolizing the diversity of the forest, embraced by the RSBBAA community and the blue of the wetlands and sky.

This symbol comes to represent the dreams of the users of the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area (RSBBAA).  The RSBBAA has proven to be a site which over and over again draws people together, and unites diverse groups and areas.

The RSBBAA, itself is composed of two sections, east and west.

The afforestation area is comprised of two major tree plantings both coniferous trees in the shape of Scotch Pine, and Colorado Blue Spruce, along with deciduous trees.  Those deciduous trees planted in 1972-1973 included drought resistant and hardy trees such as American Elm, Siberian Elm, Black Poplar, and Caragana.

Within the RSBBAA,  selection of tree species also embraced diversity.  Trees were chosen for varieties of soil type, slow or rapid growers, long lived or short lived trees, light demanding or shade bearing.

RSBBAA not only has an area of prairie which was afforested – a forest brought into being where there was none before- but it also has large 50 foot areas of fescue grasslands left as fire breaks within the afforested area, providing two ecosystems together in one area.  Together at the RSBBAA, native Trembling Aspen groves, and prairie shrubs have joined with the planted afforestation area creating spectacular scenic visions.

There is yet another embracing of two major ecosystems, the wooded area is dissected by the West Swale wetlands, and three large paririe potholes make homes for the Ruddy Ducks, Mallards, Geese, Muskrats, and a number of other wetlands birds and animals, thriving  alongside the woodlands animals – jackrabbits, white tail deer, porcupine, and mule deer, etc.

However there is also another embracing outside of the wildlife corridor habitat – the RSBBAA is situated on the border zone of the City of Saskatoon and the Rural Municipality of Corman Park #344.  At this south west border of the City of Saskatoon, the Montgomery Place Community Association have become stewards of the RSBBAA, and completed a clean up in the spring of 2015 to protect the environment.  At the border of the Rural Municipality of Corman Park #344 is the hamlet of Cedar Villa Estates.  The community members have also been for the past number of years, “Stewards for the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area” and besides enjoying walks in the woodlands, they keep an eye on the forest, protecting it.  They also effected a clean up in another area of the RSBBAA in the spring of 2014.  Change in the RSBBAA begins with action.  It is with actions such as these, that a ripple effect is created which will leads to preventing trash build up in this urban regional park.

And so there is yet another joining of two besides the City of Saskatoon residents who have come to love and embrace the beauty and splendour of the RSBBAA, there are also the rural residents from the neighbouring Rural Municipality of Corman Park #344 who have also a deep wish that the RSBBAA can reach its full potential as a spectacular wooded area to enjoy.

Again- another coming together of two groups is presented in the RSBBAA logo, the many committees and personnel within Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA)and the several departments of the City of Saskatoon are working towards a vision for the RSBBAA.  These two entities have a proven track record for considering a wide variety of potentialities, recreational, economic and environmental  among a very few.  The city and the MVA look towards the current needs from a variety of inputs, embrace past directions for what works, and have long range sustainable projected growth plans for the future.

However, this does not end here, the RSBBAA represents both the past the the present embracing the future.  A vision for a green belt for Saskatoon in 1960.  This starts with Bert Wellman, Saskatoon Planning Department, who walked around Saskatoon’s perimeter choosing high spots of land for scenic beauty.  Together with City Planner Bill Graham they worked on parkways and planted trees for the 1960 Circle Drive Parkway at these sites.  Alfred Henry Browne “Man of the Trees” city Parks Superintendent – “The Man Who Made Saskatoon Beautiful” also had a vision for Saskatoon – planting over 30,000 trees in the city. Wyndham Winkler Ashley local horticulturist and founder of the parks board advocated trees, and dispersed tree seedlings.  They all envisioned a green city.   RSBBAA brings together these visionaries of 1960 with the planners and designers at City Hall of the current era.

But again, the RSBBAA continues on, bringing together community that have a love and passion for RSBBAA.  The Honourable Pat Lorje, councilor for ward 2 has been bringing direction to the many diverse interest groups of the RSBBAA.  Pat Lorje, with great wisdom and diplomacy has been able to steer the ship, and bring such a wide variety of people interests and user group skill sets together to chart a course upon which everyone can sail.  By taking into account and remembering the needs and passions from the growing Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area community, Pat Lorje, keeps the RSBBAA ship from sinking, and keeps everyone’s head above water.  For the diverse users and groups who are taking part in the RSBBAA discussions, having such pilot in the ship is a wise and invaluable asset to have to stay the course, and not get bogged down and mired in the mud.

So this symbol represents the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area.  The symbol has within it a heart which is pointing upwards in direction, moving forward in a positive way.  The RSBBA has become itself, a symbol brings together the users and groups who have embraced the afforestation area and its decided beauty. Country and city, neighbourhood and employment sector, nature lovers and sports enthusiasts, wetlands and forest, native plants and afforested trees all come together to make the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area a vision for many of a dream come true.  While the city grows towards half a million people by 2023, it is reassuring to know that such a forest is nestled within the boundaries of Saskatoon – a place  which is enjoyed by a wide and diverse range of users and user groups.

“We stand in awe and wonder at the beauty of a single tree.  Tall and graceful it stands, yet robust and sinewy with spreading arms decked with foliage that changes through the seasons, hour by hour, moment by moment as shadows pass or sunshine dapples the leaves.  How much more deeply are we moved as we begin to appreciate the combined operations of the assembly of trees we call a forest.”~Richard St. Barbe Baker
White_tailed_deer_Nebraska

 

For directions as to how to drive to “George Genereux” Urban Regional Park

For directions on how to drive to Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area

For more information:

Blairmore Sector Plan Report; planning for the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area,  George Genereux Urban Regional Park and West Swale and areas around them inside of Saskatoon city limits

P4G Saskatoon North Partnership for Growth The P4G consists of the Cities of Saskatoon, Warman, and Martensville, the Town of Osler and the Rural Municipality of Corman Park; planning for areas around the afforestation area and West Swale outside of Saskatoon city limits

Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area is located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada north of Cedar Villa Road, within city limits, in the furthest south west area of the city. 52° 06′ 106° 45′
Addresses:
Part SE 23-36-6 – Afforestation Area – 241 Township Road 362-A
Part SE 23-36-6 – SW Off-Leash Recreation Area (Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area ) – 355 Township Road 362-A
S ½ 22-36-6 Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area (West of SW OLRA) – 467 Township Road 362-A
NE 21-36-6 “George Genereux” Afforestation Area – 133 Range Road 3063
Wikimapia Map: type in Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area
Google Maps South West Off Leash area location pin at parking lot
Web page: https://stbarbebaker.wordpress.com
Where is the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area? with map
Where is the George Genereux Urban Regional Park (Afforestation Area)? with map

Pinterest richardstbarbeb

Facebook Group Page: Users of the George Genereux Urban Regional Park

Facebook: StBarbeBaker

Facebook group page : Users of the St Barbe Baker Afforestation Area

Facebook: South West OLRA

Twitter: StBarbeBaker

Please help protect / enhance your afforestation areas, please contact the Friends of the Saskatoon Afforestation Areas Inc. (e-mail)

Support the afforestation areas with your donation or membership ($20.00/year).  Please donate by paypal using the e-mail friendsafforestation AT gmail.com, or by using e-transfers  Please and thank you!  Your donation and membership is greatly appreciated.  Members e-mail your contact information to be kept up to date!

QR Code FOR PAYPAL DONATIONS to the Friends of the Saskatoon Afforestation Areas Inc.
Paypal

Payment Options
Membership : $20.00 CAD – yearly
Membership with donation : $20.00 CAD -monthly
Membership with donation : $50.00 CAD
Membership with donation : $100.00 CAD

1./ Learn.

2./ Experience

3./ Do Something: ***

What was Richard St. Barbe Baker’s mission, that he imparted to the Watu Wa Miti, the very first forest scouts or forest guides?  To protect the native forest, plant ten native trees each year, and take care of trees everywhere.

“We stand in awe and wonder at the beauty of a single tree. Tall and graceful it stands, yet robust and sinewy with spreading arms decked with foliage that changes through the seasons, hour by hour, moment by moment as shadows pass or sunshine dapples the leaves. How much more deeply are we moved as we begin to appreciate the combined operations of the assembly of trees we call a forest.”~Richard St. Barbe Baker

 

 

“St. Barbe’s unique capacity to pass on his enthusiasm to others. . . Many foresters all over the world found their vocations as a result of hearing ‘The Man of the Trees’ speak. I certainly did, but his impact has been much wider than that. Through his global lecture tours, St. Barbe has made millions of people aware of the importance of trees and forests to our planet.” Allan Grainger

“The science of forestry arose from the recognition of a universal need. It embodies the spirit of service to mankind in attempting to provide a means of supplying forever a necessity of life and, in addition, ministering to man’s aesthetic tastes and recreational interests. Besides, the spiritual side of human nature needs the refreshing inspiration which comes from trees and woodlands. If a nation saves its trees, the trees will save the nation. And nations as well as tribes may be brought together in this great movement, based on the ideal of beautifying the world by the cultivation of one of God’s loveliest creatures – the tree.” ~ Richard St. Barbe Baker.

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