Saturday, March 2, 2013

Still Life With Robin: March Into Spring

Photo by Thomas S. Mann
by Peggy Robin

It's spring! What's that you say? Not until March 20?

Let me make the pitch for recognizing that spring arrives on first day of March, rather than on the solar equinox two-thirds of the way through the month.  It's not just me saying this: According to the World Meteorological Organization, March 1 in the northern hemisphere marks the meteorological beginning of spring, while the vernal equinox is the astronomical beginning of spring. (see I see no advantage to us here in the northern hemisphere to focus on an astronomical event, which, when you get down to the nitty-gritty, is not even precise; that is to say, the amount of daylight and darkness on March 20, 2013, is not equally divided (see for the explanation of this phenomenon).

Here are the main points in favor of designating March 1 as the first day of spring:

* It simplifies the seasons to have each one made up of three full months. (Note that my proposal is not limited to spring in the northern hemisphere, but would apply to the other seasons in the same way, with summer starting on June 1, fall on September 1, and winter on December 1.)

* It recognizes that the greatest temperature shift occurs from the first of March to the end of the month. There's a rise of 11 degrees Fahrenheit for March-April (averaged over 30 years for Washington, DC, according to (

* Flower bulbs marketed as "early spring blooming" are usually out around the start of the month, and in any event, well before March 20. They're not labeled "late winter blooming," are they?

* Starting a new season on the first of the month lines up better with monthly or seasonal billing periods, payment plans, fiscal quarters, and other financial or accounting divisions of the year.

* The first of the month is a fixed date, while the astronomical events, the equinoxes and the solstices, can wobble by a day here or there. Then you have to consider that the vernal and autumnal equinoxes are not parallel to each other on the calendar, as the date range for the autumnal event occupies the 22nd-23rd of September. That's annoying. And so is the need to say "vernal" when describing the astronomical event in March. We should not let the start of spring get bumped around this way, when there's a simple, fixed date available.

* Moving the beginning of spring back to March 1 works even better in the southern parts of the country, where the length of days does not change so markedly as it does in the north, and warm weather arrives sooner, too. Across America from Southern California to Florida, millions would be better served by a March 1 first day of spring.

* March 1 is about when the spring allergy season kicks in for hay fever sufferers. Tree pollen levels jumped up from their winter "low" range to "moderate" on the first of this month. You know spring has arrived when you hear the sound of sneezing all around you.

* Now here's the reason that for me at least, trumps all the others: Because by the end of February we are sick of winter. On March 1 we are so ready for spring. Let's just call it that and be done with it!

Well, that's my case. Now all we need to do is get the calendar makers and news media to embrace and propagate this change. Propagation -- hmmm, isn't that the prime function of spring? I'm ready to get started, by wishing everyone, as of yesterday, a very happy spring!


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv,, and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

No comments:

Post a Comment