As of Saturday, March 22, 2014
The Dalles To the editor:
Did you ever feel that at least in our climate, spring usually begins some time before the official date of March 20?
The numbers are telling: the average coldest three-month period in most of the Pacific Northwest runs from late November through mid-February, a full month earlier than the official definition given for winter (late December through mid-March). At The Dalles Airport, the first day of winter - December 21 - has a normal high temperature of 39 degrees F, compared to 58 by the time “winter” ends on March 19. So if winter is the coldest quarter of the year, then spring must start around February 20! (Remember a few of those years we had a bunch of sunny 60s in late February?)
This year classic spring temperatures started abruptly on March 4 - while in other years the turning of seasons is less obvious. And yes, there are some years where a late winter chill lingers all the way through to the March 20 equinox. Sometimes we even yo-yo back and forth between seasons for a while, like in March 2012.
I think of the time between Valentine’s Day and Spring Equinox as a separate transitional season. This is a time when the atmosphere is still cold, but the increasing solar energy is beginning to change the air forces that make our weather. The potent late February and early March sun handily brings out crocuses and flushes the hills green.
Then the Equinox might be the start of “High Spring,” the time when the vibrant part of the season flaunts itself. Light has conquered darkness in the northern lands, and the land quickly awakens from its slumber.
This respects the fact that the turning of the seasons is a continuous cycle, not a sharp rectangular calendar.
Or we could just go with what the weather and climate scientists use:
March 1 Northern Hemisphere, September 1 Southern.
In any case: Happy Equinox, and may your Spring be joyous and productive!