This is midwinter day, the halfway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. The days are rapidly getting longer, by about four minutes, and it is marked as a significant day in many cultures. February 2 is celebrated by Christians as Candlemas, when the church candles are blessed, and by pagans as the Festival of Light. In America it is Groundhog Day, when this animal’s behaviour is said to foretell whether spring is coming.
This midwinter day, after the wild, wet and mild weather of the last two months, many would welcome animals seeing their shadows and hope it heralded a spell of frosty dry weather to bring the seasons back towards a normal pattern.
But judging by the latest science published on Friday, looking at European weather over the last 30 years, we have already irrevocably changed our climate.
Meteorologists are still reluctant to give weather forecasts for more than six days in advance, and hedgehogs being in short supply in Britain, it is hard to tell what the rest of the winter has in store. But looking at computer predictions for the direction and speed of the jet stream, more warm, wet weather is on the way.