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Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring?

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 seasons versus astronomical seasons via Facebook:

Q: What’s the difference between meteorological 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 at the end of February (February 29th in 2020). And 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, define “winter” in the Northern Hemisphere 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 19th (in 2020 — 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.

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  • Mary Catton says:

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

  • Dianna says:

    Astrological timing

  • Vanessa says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

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

  • Dom Graziani says:

    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.

  • Tatiana says:

    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 says:

    Early spring please

  • Rhonda Hopkins says:

    Yes definitely

  • Ron says:

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

  • Mattie says:

    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 says:

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

  • Randall Krause says:

    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 says:

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

    • Eliza says:

      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 says:

    December 1 I agree with!

  • Ann says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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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