Thursday, March 20, 2008


Today is the first day of Spring! Wohoo! I think in the future I will turn the first day of Spring into my own personal holiday. Today was an especially beautiful day to be the first day of Spring. The skies were intermittently cloudy and sunny, and occasionally divulged a light sprinkle...all of which created a rainbow that arched over the lake and into the mountains. I was so glad to have been driving from Springville to American Fork to see it. My heart smiled.
YOU Don't have to look far to see signs of spring. From the budding of the trees and the warming of the temperatures to the animals coming out of their winter hideouts, there seems to be a promise of new birth and color in the springtime air.

The first day of spring is around March 20 or 21, depending on what day the vernal equinox occurs. This is when the sun sits directly above the equator on its apparent trip northward. Of course this sun isn't moving; Earth is. As Earth revolves around the sun, the top half, called the Northern Hemisphere, becomes tilted more toward the sun as winter turns to spring. Meanwhile the bottom half, the Southern Hemisphere, becomes tilted more away from the sun. The beginning of spring for us is the beginning of autumn for people in Australia and the southern parts of Africa and South America.

Unequal equinox

The word "equinox" comes from Latin and means "equal nights." Around March 20, sunrise and sunset are about twelve hours apart everywhere on Earth. Because of that, a lot of people think that day and night are of equal length on March 20. But actually the day is a little longer than the night on this date. There are a few reasons for that. Sunrise occurs when the top of the sun (not the center) is on the horizon. But the sun actually appears to be above the horizon when it is in fact still below it. That's because Earth's atmosphere refracts or "bends" light coming from the sun, so we see the sun a couple of minutes before it actually rises over the horizon. If you add the daylight that persists after sunset, you'll find the day on the equinox is several minutes longer than the night.

Variety in Spring Weather

In the United States, spring is a time of transition not only for plant and animal life, but for the weather too. It can mean weather extremes from very cold and snowy days to humid and stormy days. Some of the country's biggest snowfalls have occurred in March, and the period from March to May is the time of year when much of the south is most likely to get severe thunderstorms with hail and even tornadoes. This is why the beginning of spring is a good time to put together a plan for what you and your family would do in case of a severe thunderstorm or tornado. Go here for some ideas on how to do that.

The Yolk's on You!

Has anyone ever told you that you can balance a raw egg on end on the first day of spring? They think that somehow the pull of gravity is more equal on this day because the sun is more directly overhead. There is no scientific support for this. The egg legend apparently got its start in 1945 when a reporter for Life Magazine wrote a story about a Chinese ritual in which people stood eggs on end on the first day of spring. But the Chinese recognized the first day of spring in early February, or about six weeks before the spring equinox! Later, in 1983, one hundred New Yorkers got together on March 20 to balance eggs, and an article about the event appeared in the New Yorker magazine. A year later, five thousand New Yorkers repeated the tradition on the first day of spring, and the egg legend grew.

The truth is that if you can get a raw egg to balance upright on the spring equinox, you can get it to balance any other day of the year. The pull of gravity or the position of the sun in the sky has nothing to do with it. So don't spread this unscientific rumor, or you'll end up with egg on your face!

What day does spring start?

It's snowing but according to the Met Office spring has sprung. Others disagree. So what day does spring start?

Much of the country is in the grip of icy winter weather but according to the Meteorological Office spring is here.

It classes the first day of spring as 1 March, saying March, April and May are regarded as the spring months. But traditionally spring has started on the night of 20/21 March and a row has erupted over the official date.

"You would not regard the first three weeks of June as spring, yet historically summer does not start until 21 June," says a spokesman for the Met Office. "Equally, the bulk of people now regard 1 March as the first day of spring."


But disgruntled MPs are questioning "on whose authority" the date has been changed.

"They may say that 1 March is the first day of spring - which it is not - but it certainly doesn't feel like it," says the seasonally named Sir Nicholas Winterton, Conservative MP for Macclesfield.

He is supported by Stuart Bell, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, who says: "Spring starts on March 20/21 and if the Met Office are not aware of this simple fact, it reflects a casual approach to facts, which is all too inherent today."

Historically spring starts on the day of the vernal equinox, which usually occurs on the night of 20/21 March.

Vernal comes originally from the Latin word for bloom and refers to the fact that, in the northern hemisphere, this equinox marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

An equinox is a time when the nights are as long as the days and the vernal equinox is recognised the world over as the start of the new astrological cycle.

But does that necessarily make it the start of spring? After all, summer is commonly decreed to start on 21 June - the Summer Solstice - yet the following day is known as MID-summer's day.

And since when has the prevailing weather had anything to do with it? Parts of the country may be ankle-deep in snow but cast your mind back three months and the talk was why, in mid-December, the weather felt like spring.

The Met Office, meanwhile, has little time for celestial patterns and historical precedent. It picked 1 March for simplicity's sake, choosing to slot the four seasons neatly into the 12 months... June, July and August are the summer months; September, October and November autumn, and so on.

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