Could it be that the groundhog got it wrong?
Three weeks ago Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so we’re told, which tradition has it presages six more weeks of winter. If it’s a winter like the one we’re having, so unlike last year’s parade of blizzards, bring it on.
March is still a week away, and the official start of spring just shy of four weeks removed, but it sure seems winter skipped out some time ago. Temperatures at night are in the 40s and the crocuses have been up for a while with no snow to poke their heads through. Roses and other flowers are awakening, chattering birds pierce the early morning quiet and daytime temperatures are climbing up to the mid-50s and higher. The sun doesn’t set until after 5:30 p.m. and we’re back to daylight saving time in just two and half weeks.
Global warming? Not necessarily. Climatologists tell us a phenomenon called arctic oscillation is the reason. It’s all about the location of the jet stream, that narrow band of fast-moving air encircling the globe from six to nine miles up. Our weather is shaped by the polar jet, which forms a boundary between warm air to the south and cold air to the north. This year the polar jet is north of us and that locked the frigid air up in Canada. Last year? Well, the less said about that the better.
There are indications that our multi-year economic winter may be on the wane as well. Earlier this week the Dow Jones flirted with 13,000, a number unseen since the 2008 collapse. As much as Wall Street has become a neon symbol of greed, excess and an amoral laissez faire attitude toward the human cost of corporate policy, there’s no escaping its importance in the nation’s economic health — and that’s not just for the fat cats. Pensions, 401(k) accounts and other investments held by people of modest means rise and fall with the Dow, NASDAQ, S&P 500 and other market indices.
True, it’s not yet time to belt out a chorus of “Happy Days Are Here Again.” As Wall Street giveth, it can also taketh away, virtually overnight. And while many rejoice at the level of home heating oil remaining in their tanks so late in the season, gasoline prices are rocketing upward. (There couldn’t possibly be a connection there, could there?) Still, we’ll take small victories and blessings where we find them. It may still snow before the forsythia blooms, but so what? It won’t last.