Say Goodbye to Winter: The Spring Equinox is Monday

Land Rovers in the snow in Vermont

By Kurt Stolz on 19 March 2023
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Depending on where you are in the Northern Hemisphere, you’ve either been enjoying spring-like weather for weeks or you’ve wondered whether the calendar had gotten stuck in mid-January.

But as of late Monday, it will be definitive: The vernal equinox, the official start of astronomical spring, will take place on Monday at 5:24 p.m. EDT, 10:24 p.m. CET on the European continent, and 2:24 p.m. on the West Coast of the United States.

While meteorological spring is already upon us, astronomical spring, based on the position of the Earth in relation to the sun, begins on the spring equinox. The difference is that meteorologists and climatologists divide the seasons into three-month groupings where temperatures are similar, while the astronomical seasons begin on the year’s equinoxes and solstices.

In the United States, spring months are March, April, and May, while in Ireland, following the Irish calendar, they are February, March, and April.  In Sweden, meteorologists define the beginning of spring as the first occasion on which the average 24-hour temperature exceeds the freezing mark for seven consecutive days, while in Australia, the spring months are September, October, and November.

What exactly is an equinox and what does it signify? Each year, the planet Earth goes through two equinoxes and two solstices.  The equinoxes occur in September and March, marking the start of fall and spring, respectively.  The solstices occur in June and December, marking the start of summer and winter.

Confused? So were we, until we consulted the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, known more popularly as NASA.

“An equinox occurs midway between the two solstices,” NASA said in a statement.

The Northern Hemisphere spring equinox also marks the point at which daylight will start to be more prevalent than darkness.  Since the winter solstice in December, the hours of daylight have been growing shorter and, on the day of the autumnal equinox, day and night are approximately equal in duration.

Indeed, the term “equinox” is a portmanteau combining the Latin word “aequus,” which means “equal,” and “nox,” which means “night.”

The days will continue to grow longer and the nights will continue to grow shorter until the summer solstice, which will take place on June 21.  The summer solstice occurs when the Earth’s north pole is tilted 23.5° towards the Sun.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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