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March 1st: Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring?

Winter's over? Sort of. We explain why meteorologists have already moved on to the spring season and how it differs from our calendar.

We get a lot of questions from Farmers’ Almanac readers and we do our best to answer each one. This was a recent question on our Facebook page about meteorological seasons versus astronomical seasons:

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

A: Meteorologists define the seasons in a different way than astronomers. Each of the seasons are defined by the most severe of the months in a season. For winter, that’s December, January, & February. The four meteorological season are broken up like this:

Spring: March, April May
Summer: June, July, August
Fall: September, October, November
Winter: December, January, February

Astronomers, on the other hand, define the change of seasons by the position of the Sun. “Winter” in the Northern Hemisphere is defined 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). 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 2021 — the date and time of spring changes from year to year).

In Short

In short, the seasons you are familiar with, by the calendar, are “astronomical,” and the seasons that your meteorologist chats about on the evening news are “meteorological.” So to them, spring begins March 1st!

Weigh In!

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

This article was published by the staff at Farmers' Almanac. Interested in becoming a guest author? Contact us to let us know!

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Mary Catton

In Denver, spring comes sometime between March 15 and July 1st…..she can be joyful or very surly.

Dianna

Astrological timing

Vanessa

I have went by meteorological seasons for about 10 years now and for me they make sense. In my neck-of-the-woods it is already cold by December 1st and warming up by March 1st.

GEORGE TEMERISKI

Yes I agree with your dates . We wish they would leave the clock alone .Never mind changing it , in Oct and March ..Best regards.

Darrell L Cole

In the land of Oz they use the Meteorologist seasons. according to some cyber-friends I have from Australia

Dom Graziani

I would refrain from deeming anything Mother Nature does, by nature, as “official”. Humans have no hand in the matter, and so do not establish, “officialize”, naturally occurring phenomena. Makes sense to me anyway.

Susan Higgins

Good point, Dom! She’s always in charge.

Tatiana

Depends on the local climate really. Here in Northern Illinois, I feel like December is commonly still nice enough to be considered the end autumn, and March is commonly still cold and snowy enough to be considered still winter.

Laverne wingard

Early spring please

Rhonda Hopkins

Yes definitely

Ron

I like farmers almanac way better. Are used to plan my vacations around your weather information. It was very accurate. I trust you

Mattie

I’m in the Southeast. Winter use to be Dec to Feb. Now it’s November to mid-March. Spring was mid-March to June. Summer was June to September. Then Fall.
Now with the environment all jacked up it’s either cold or hot. So we only have 2 seasons now. Winter & Summer.
I also would like daylight savings to spring forward forever.

Bill

Up here in East Snowbelt, N.Y. our “meteorological” seasons are June, July, August and Winter.

Randall Krause

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.

Robert

Not to crazy about your seasons but sure like the idea about daylight saving time.

Eliza

As the WINTER solstice is Dec 21st it should be in the middle so logically winter should start in November , till Spring Starting February ? the30 min forwardn March 21 the Spring equinox would be in the middle. Very complicated as the months do not have equal days. Unfortunately that would have to give a whole new name to the weather we get on the Canadian boarder ln March LOL. DST should be changed permanently. (then no need to call it DST)

Stacy Smith

December 1 I agree with!

Ann

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.

Kris P

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!!

Michelle Lewis

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

Susan Higgins

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. https://www.farmersalmanac.com/long-range-weather-forecastnorth-central-us/

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