An Unequal Vernal Equinox

By , March 20, 2010

Today, officially, is the Vernal Equinox, the day when we have equal amounts of darkness and daylight. It’s also regarded as the first day of spring. We here in Haines are there ahead of you, waiting for our southern friends to catch up. I’m not just talking about our family’s observation of Celtic Calendar spring, but daylight as well.

According to the charts I generated for our area from the U.S. Naval Observatory Website, our region’s equinox has already occurred. At some point between March 17th and 18th, we crossed the moment of equal daylight and darkness. Today, on the official equinox, we have 15 minutes more daylight than darkness. From here until the Summer Solstice, that daylight will keep increasing till we have more than 17 1/2 hours.

As to the first day of spring question, I recently read a particularly silly “explanation” of this from an otherwise reliable source. The argument was that just as the hottest part of the day comes in the early afternoon rather than at high noon, the coldest part of the winter and hottest part of the summer comes later than the first day of the season. It’s this coldest or warmest day, the source argues, that places the first day of the season where it does! Fine, that must be why we all call the hottest part of the afternoon “noon,” rather than 12:00 p.m. right? Right? Give me a break. This is the first time I’ve heard of time measured by temperature rather than the position of the sun.

As far as I’ve been able to discover, the first day of the season that our calendars mark are astronomical designations. That still doesn’t quite explain why these markers are considered the first day rather than the middle of the season, where they actually fall.

At any rate, spring is definitely more springlike these days. We’ve trended toward spring for most of the last month, but now we’re beginning to smell spring, as the willows, cottonwoods, birches, and alders begin to bud. And, ominously, on the 17th we saw our first mosquitoes.

See photos of the homestead in spring here.

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