Which Spring is the REAL Spring?

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By Erica Grow on February 7, 2012, 12:00am

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As Winter winds down (not like it's been a brutal winter here in Connecticut, but I digress), many of us are looking forward to blooming flowers and short sleeves. If you look at a calendar, you'll see the first day of Spring 2012 is on March 20th. But did you know that there are two different dates that are considered to be the first day of Spring?

March 20th, 2012 is the Vernal Equinox. This is the date when the sun's rays are shining directly on the central latitude of Earth, otherwise known as the Equator. From this date until the Fall, we in the Northern Hemisphere are receiving more solar radiation than the Southern Hemisphere. Our days get longer and warmer, the buds on the trees start waking up, and people spend more time outdoors.

In the world of Meteorology, there's another date which is considered the first day of Spring: March 1st. Meteorologists break the calendar year up into four seasons, which is normal. The abnormal part is when those seasons begin and end! "Meteorological Spring", as it is called, encompasses the months of March, April and May. Why not just go by the regular calendar, you may ask? If you're a weather buff (and if you're here, I'd imagine that you are), you've noticed that meteorology incorporates normals/averages into its data pretty frequently. As it turns out, the months of December, January and February are the coldest months of the year in the Northern Hemisphere... on average, of course! Even though we often don't feel the real warmup until later in March, or even April, the average temperature is still milder in March than it is in February. So, in climatological records, it is sometimes easier or more logical to group all climate data from March together, instead of dividing it along the date of the Equinox, which actually varies by a day or two every year! The date of Meteorological Spring's start may be arbitrary, but as you can see, it serves a concrete purpose.

So... which Spring will you celebrate? Are you anxious for its arrival, and intend to make March 1st your jump-off point? Or are you an astronomical purist, for whom Spring won't arrive until the Sun does?

Of course, if you're a snow-lover, you're probably singing a different tune altogether. "With the lack of snow, it feels like Spring is already here!"

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Erica Grow

Town: Branford, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since January 2012.

Articles: 21

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