Today is the Vernal Equinox, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. The new season officially begins at 11:49 PM Eastern Daylight Time.
Our astronomical seasons are a product of the tilt of the Earth’s axis – a 23.5° angle – and the movement of the planet around the sun. During the spring months, the Earth’s axis is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun. This position distributes the sun’s energy equally between the northern and southern hemispheres.
Since the winter solstice in December, the arc of the sun’s apparent daily passage across the sky has been getting higher and daylight hours have been increasing. Today, the sun appears directly overhead at the equator and we have approximately equal hours of day and night. The word “equinox” is derived from Latin and means “equal night”.
As a transitional season, spring is a time when the chill of winter fades away and the warmth of summer gradually returns. The most noticeable increases in average daily temperature, however, usually lag the equinox by a few weeks.
The vernal equinox normally takes place on March 20 or 21, but this year it is arriving a day early. The main reasons for this involve complicated calendar issues related to leap year and daylight savings time. Happy Spring!