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Turning of the seasons??? [Nov. 27th, 2007|10:27 am]

Looking at the calendar this morning I had a thought on how seasons are defined.

The Solar calendar, as embedded into our counting of the years, and according to the paper calendar I was looking at, defines seasons in terms of solstices and equinoxes. According to the printed calendar, winter doesn't start until December 22nd this year. By my reckoning, that means that the seasons are as follows (for 2008):

  • Winter: January, February, March (Dec 22-Mar 20)

  • Spring: April, May, June (Mar 21-Jun 20)

  • Summer: July, August, September (Jun 21-Sep 22)

  • Autumn: October, November, December (Sep 23-Dec 22)

That feels really odd to me. Thinking about it, it's because I'm heavily influenced by the Academic calendar, which follows more the ancient roman calendar, and defines seasons in whole months. For (2007 going into) 2008, that would be:

  • Winter: December, January, February

  • Spring: March, April, May

  • Summer: June, July, August

  • Autumn: September, October, November

Which is almost a whole month (ok, 3 weeks) off from the solar calendar. Not actually a lot of time, but it feels like a big difference. So,
How do you define your seasonal calendar?
Addendum: Peeking at Wikipedia, I am reminded that these seasons refer to the temperate zone. Tropical seasons and polar seasons are obviously greatly different. I'm also reminded that these are seasons for dividing the year, and not seasons in the sense of hurricane season, blizzard season, or baseball season. Lastly, Wikipedia points out another yearly temperate cycle division called the Traditional Seasons, which set their seasonal *midpoints* at the equinoxes and solstices, so they start a whole month before the Roman, and 7 weeks before the Solar/Astronomical calendars. This reckoning was apparently embraced by different cultures, but some of you would recognize the Traditional seasonal boundaries as Samhain (early Nov), Imbolc (early Feb), Beltane (early May), and Lughnasadh (early Aug). This seems to be the classic agrarian calendar, with seasons of planting, growing, harvesting, and fallowing. In contrast, the Roman calendar seems equated with a meteorological calendar, i.e., linked to max and min temperatures, not max and min sunlight hours. See also The Straight Dope.

View the Original Post Here


[User Picture]From: tpau
2007-11-27 03:46 pm (UTC)
i was always taught in school that winter is dec, jan feb and spring is march april may etc. i was rather startled when i discovered that in America winter didn't start until almost the end of december. it was weird.
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[User Picture]From: laurion
2007-11-27 05:00 pm (UTC)
To be fair, it wasn't always this way. For some reason, calendar manufacturers have all switched to the Astronomical calendar, probably because it has a scientific backing, even if the science is only with regards to the planet's position relative to the sun, and has little or no bearing on what's actually happening on the planet.
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[User Picture]From: koboldninja_5
2007-11-27 04:16 pm (UTC)
I generally ignore what the official definitions are and define it by when the weather is shifting. While this has unbalanced seasons in Vermont--Winter is typically longer than others, it is reasonably similar to the Academic calender.

Winter: Mid-Late November, December, January, February, March
Spring: April, May
Summer: June, July, August
Autumn: Early-Mid September, October, Early-Mid November.

Presumably in warmer regions (Mediterranean Climate for one) this would be more balanced, or swung a bit in the direction of Summer.
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[User Picture]From: laurion
2007-11-27 05:03 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that seems to follow the natural cycle, and is pretty common around here, especially when people are using seasons to refer to climate shifts, and not needing to pin down specific days/dates. Posing the question to some people who grew up in this state or just south (CT/RI) seems to indicate that Winter and Summer are both almost 4 months long, and that Spring and Fall are shorter.

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[User Picture]From: koboldninja_5
2007-11-27 05:09 pm (UTC)
For me, Spring gets pretty well crunched because of the timing of snows. March is typically the snowiest month, so the next two are spent budding and melting, but by June summer is in full bloom. Autumn lasts about when the leaves start turning and goes until the first snows really stick, which can be anytime in November, really, so that gets extended.
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[User Picture]From: laurion
2007-11-27 05:06 pm (UTC)
March and April snows are obnoxious aren't they?

According to municipal parking bans, Winter around here goes from Nov 1 to April 1, fully half the year.

(A year passed. Winter changed into Spring. Spring changed into Summer. Summer changed back into Winter. And Winter gave Spring and Summer a miss and went straight on into Autumn.)
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[User Picture]From: neuromancerzss
2007-11-27 04:56 pm (UTC)
Seasons are weather for me. When it's snowing it's not fall or spring, whenever that may be. When it's shorts-weather all the time it's summer. The others are buffers.
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[User Picture]From: meranthi
2007-11-27 05:09 pm (UTC)
Winter in my mind is Dec-March or so. But I also tend to think of the Winter Solstice as mid-winter. (Yeah, that makes sense) Spring is April, May. Summer is June-mid-September. Fall is everything until the first appreciable snow. So, we're still in Fall as far as my mind is concerned.

I grew up with the solstices and equinoxes in my mind a lot, since my parents are astronomers. But those always struck me more as mid-season, rather than beginning of the season...
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[User Picture]From: salmonpi
2007-11-27 07:20 pm (UTC)
It all depends on the weather. I grew up in Maine, so March and maybe half of April belong to winter. Other than that, I pretty much agree with the months you assigned.
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[User Picture]From: mabfan
2007-11-27 08:24 pm (UTC)
I tend to think of the seasons by their standard equinox/solstice definitions, although it doesn't mean I won't change my clothing to adjust for whatever the temperature is on that particular day. :-)
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[User Picture]From: lordameth
2007-11-27 09:32 pm (UTC)
I'm totally with you on the confusion factor. I guess I tend to think of it by your school-year-influenced calendar, though I'm fully aware of the normal astronomical one.

Still, the weather can vary quite drastically away from any standard 3-months x 4 seasons scheme. Here in Yokohama/Tokyo this year, it was full-on summer (90F+, 90+ humidity) until roughly the Autumnal Equinox, then it was warm, sunny, pleasant, and vernal (read: not chilly like autumn's supposed to be) until some time in November. The leaves have only begun to change now, and it may be some time before they fall off and we're in full-on winter (though I've been told to not expect any snow :( ) ... I imagine it'll be cold up through February or March, beautiful from March through May, raining all through June (that's the fifth season - rainy season), and then back to heinously humid and hot July through August and into September.

Is this normal? Does this fit anyone's conceptions of when the four seasons should be or what they should feel like?

Meh. As long as we're on the subject, we *could* also talk about where different cultures place the New Year's and why...
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[User Picture]From: roamin_umpire
2007-12-10 01:23 pm (UTC)


I've always thought that it made little sense that winter started on the shortest day of the year. It seemed to me that what you labeled the Traditional Seasons made the most sense.

On the other hand, having been in Troy for over 10 years now, I've definitely gotten used to the standard Trojan seasons: Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter (also known as Mud), and Construction.
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[User Picture]From: laurion
2007-12-10 03:29 pm (UTC)

Re: Necropost!

Yes, local weather conditions do seem to override anything the calendar might tell you. Thus that time in early october where you could wear shorts one day and sweater and scarf the next.

Does make m think twice about going someplace like Dublin, where the temperature tends to be between 40 and 80 (Farenheit for comparison) year round. I could make do with most days having some amount of rain for that. I know now why Hawaii is so popular... near tropical conditions, but with oceanic breezes that keep things near 75-80 for most of the year, down to maybe 60 in the winter.
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