Spring began at 6:29am on Monday March 20th. So why are we still looking at snow? For most of us the tease of warm weather that occurred in late February made us all wish for spring, even though we were confused while looking at the calendar. The TV weathermen started talking about the start of “meteorological spring”. Then, of course, the huge snowstorm of last week made us all wish for spring that much more. What is spring? When does spring really start?
The start of spring on March 20th is known as ”astronomical spring” or the vernal (spring) equinox. The “equinox” is the moment that the sun crosses the plane of the earth’s equator it is also the day that the number of daylight hours approximately equals the number of nighttime hours. This date varies slightly from year to year because it takes the earth 365.24 days to circle the earth so the time that we reach the equinox varies a little. This is also why we have a leap year every four years, adding that extra day to our calendar.
“Meteorological spring” occurs on March 1st. Climatologist’s and meteorologist’s observations and forecasts led to the creation of these seasons which are more closely tied to our calendars than the astronomical seasons. They break the seasons down into groupings of three months based on the annual temperature cycle as well as our calendar. We generally think of winter as the coldest time of the year and summer as the warmest time of the year, with spring and fall being the transition seasons. Meteorological spring includes March, April, and May.
I have lived in New England-from central Maine to southern Connecticut-my entire life and neither of these descriptions of spring corresponds to what I expect. March is supposed to be mud season. By April, the weather is less variable but getting warmer. I know that I can plant in May. The most important thing to remember is that warmer weather is ahead, and hopefully, this time it will stay.