Seasons in the Sun

My friends in the U.S. might be surprised to learn that September 1 is considered the first day of Spring in Australia. The fact that it’s the “opposite” season from autumn in the northern hemisphere isn't a surprise, of course, but from an American perspective, seasons don’t change until the 22nd. Sometime during elementary school (in Illinois) I had learned the seasons changed during the March equinox, June solstice, September equinox, and December solstice, each around the 21st or 22nd of their respective months. I liked the certainty of those dates, but I really didn’t question whether it made sense to do it this way. In fact, here’s a link to a site where the author examines the logic, but is also apparently unaware that some countries do not observe the beginning of the seasons on these dates because their citizens rely on meteorological, rather than astronomical, reckoning to determine them. Quoting from Wikipedia: “Meteorological seasons are reckoned by temperature, with summer being the hottest quarter of the year, and winter the coldest quarter of the year.

Using this reckoning, the Ancient Roman calendar began the year and the spring season on the first of March, with each season occupying three months. This reckoning is also used in Denmark, the former USSR, and Australia. In modern United Kingdom and Ireland there are no hard and fast rules about seasons, and informally many people use this reckoning. So, in meteorology for the Northern hemisphere:

* spring begins on March 1,
* summer on June 1,
* autumn on September 1, and
* winter on December 1.

Conversely, for the Southern hemisphere:

* summer begins on December 1,
* autumn on March 1,
* winter on June 1, and
* spring on September 1.”

I think this meteorological reckoning actually makes sense, even for the United States. When I lived in the Midwest, it always seemed somewhat stupid to hear on December 22 that it was “the first day of winter,” as I trudged out to the driveway to shovel the snow for the third time since Thanksgiving. Similarly, June 22 is well into summer, especially when you think of Memorial Day and Labor Day in the U.S. as the real bookends to the season.

A final note: I hope that those of you back in the good old USA are having a relaxing Labor Day weekend.