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Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring?

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Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring?

We get a lot of questions from readers here at the Farmers’ Almanac, and we do our best to answer each one. This was a recent question about meteorological winter via Facebook:

Q: What’s the difference between meteorological winter and astronomical winter?

A: Meteorologists define “winter” as the three coldest months of the year: December, January, and February. So to them, winter begins on December 1st and ends on February 28th. The first day of meteorological spring is considered March 1st, with the three months of spring being March, April, and May.

Astronomers, on the other hand, determine winter by when the noontime Sun reaches its farthest point south in the sky; or when the Sun’s rays shine down from a point directly overhead as seen from the tropic of Capricorn (latitude 23.5 degrees south), known as the Winter Solstice. That happens on December 21 or 22, depending on the year. Astronomers call that the start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and it continues as such until the direct solar rays shine down on the equator at the vernal or spring equinox on March 20th.

In short, the seasons you are familiar with, by the calendar, are “astronomical,” and the months that your meteorologist chats about on the evening news are our “meteorological” seasons. We’ll greet meteorological spring on March 1st.

What do you think: should December 1 be the official start of winter and March 1st be the official start of spring? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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1 Randall Krause { 03.04.19 at 12:45 pm }

Personally, I don’t think either model is an accurate reflection of how seasons function within American society. Many public schools, for example, recognize mid-May through mid-August as Summer. In the retail industry, January through June is considered spring/summer fashion, and July through December is considered fall/winter fashion. So a more logical seasonal calendar should closely approximate American cultural traditions and popular civic activities, rather than weather and astronomical events.

About 30 years ago I devised the Ackermanian Calendar, which divides the year into 4 seasons so that mid-Winter is December 21 and mid-Summer is June 21.

* Winter (November – January)
* Spring (February – April)
* Summer (May – July)
* Fall (August – October)

I also proposed to eliminate Daylight Saving Time by shifting the clock permanently 30 minutes forward.

2 Stacy Smith { 02.28.19 at 9:01 am }

December 1 I agree with!

3 Ann { 02.27.19 at 12:52 pm }

It seems that meteorologists should rethink their definition of winter. The astronomical winter seems more closely aligned to our coldest months in New England. The coldest weather seems to arrive close to Christmas, and with the exception of the odd warm spells it lingers till mid march before breaking for generally warmer weather.

4 Kris P { 03.02.18 at 8:33 am }

I’m a fan of astrological seasons. I’m glad its not “Winter” until nearly the celebration of Christmas or “Jule.” Its 2 March today and the rain forecasted is SNOW! But I’ve benn brought up ‘March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb.’ Warmer days in December, January or February are bonuses!!

5 Susan Higgins { 03.01.18 at 4:01 pm }

Hi Michelle, check out our long range forecast for your zone, which is Zone 4. Other states within your zone did see significant snowfall, this year, however. http://farmersalmanac.wpengine.com/long-range-weather-forecast/north-central-us/

6 Michelle Lewis { 03.01.18 at 10:39 am }

Hello , Im just wondering if St. Louis MO and South will see any Snow yet this year ? More than and inch ? Hoping for 6-8 inches. Im a Snow Bunny

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