Meteorological Spring has Sprung!

2016-03-03 06:21:53.000 – Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist


Spring has sprung…well, sort of. When talking about spring, most out there are talking about the day that reads “FIRST DAY OF SPRING” on the calendar. This date refers to the astronomical season, which is based on Earth’s tilt on its axis as it is orbiting around the sun. Therefore, the seasons of spring and fall would land on the equinoxes (when day and night are roughly of equal length) and summer and winter would land on solstices (when day/night are of their greatest lengths, longest day in summer, longest night in winter). In the case of astronomical spring in the Northern Hemisphere, spring has not sprung; that will occur on Sunday, 20 March 2016. The spring I am referring to in this Observer Comment is known as meteorological spring.

Meteorological seasons typically occur three weeks earlier than astronomical seasons. Meteorological seasons are based on the annual temperature cycle – winter is cold, summer is warm, and fall/spring are the transition between the warmth and cold. So using the annual temperature cycles, meteorological spring would be March, April, May (summer – June, July, August; Fall – Sept, Oct, Nov; and Winter – Dec, Jan, Feb). Meteorological Spring therefore occurred 1 March 2016 and will run until 31 May 2016. Why do meteorologists and climatologists do this? This is done for consistency – by dividing up the seasons by calendar dates they are nearly even varying between 90 to 92 days. And the other reason is for less variation between seasonal and monthly statistics from year to year.

No matter which spring you choose to recognize and/or celebrate, the key thing to remember is that March is a transition season which means that warmer weather lies ahead. March, after all, is the month we learned in grade school as coming in like a lion and exiting like a lamb. For Mt Washington, the “lion-like” start has meant 8 inches of snow, a thunderstorm, two days of 100+mph winds, and temperatures varying from 28F to -19F. We’ll just have to wait to see how much longer the lion will continue to roar into spring.


Ryan Knapp, Weather Observer/Staff Meteorologist

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