Regardless of if you live in a place with cold, depressing winters (me!) or in a region where the November to March conditions are basically summer but a little colder (I'm lookin' at you, Florida!), you're probably ready for spring. Transition to a new season is about more than just a change in the weather — it's about new attitude and new energy too! Spring, in particular, feels like a chance to take on life with a fresh, positive approach. So when is the first day of spring in 2018? If you're anything like me, you don't need a specific date to start the official countdown to sunnier days, but a specific date would definitely help things, no?
The good news is that we're in the final stretch of winter, because spring officially kicks off on Tues., Mar. 20 according to the Farmer's Almanac. Spring is officially in session as of the phenomenon that astronomers call the March or vernal equinox, which will take place on 12:15 p.m. EST on said date. At the moment of this equinox, the amount of daylight and darkness is roughly equal. This also means that we'll start to experience more sunlight starting on Mar. 20. (Insert happy dance here.)
Though most of us will be celebrating springtime and sunshine along with the equinox, the Farmer's Almanac notes that there is actually a different date designated as the meteorological first day of spring (Mar. 20 is the astronomical equivalent). The official first day of spring from a meteorological perspective is Mar. 1, which is based on the fact that weather scientists use a quarterly system to divide the calendar year. In this quarterly designation, seasons are defined based on annual temperature cycles rather than the position of the Earth relative to the sun, which is how we determine seasons astronomically. This is good trivia to have on hand, of course, but you should rest assured that the vast majority of the world will celebrate spring on Mar. 20.
That wasn't always the case, though! For many years, the first day of spring was widely observed on Mar. 21, according to the aptly named Space.com. Seasonal dates can vary over time because years and seasons don't actually take place over an even number of days. Our Gregorian calendar is really just an approximation that seeks to make our human lives a little easier to organize. It's a good thing too because I wouldn't want to see what would happen if our traditional sense of chronology was constantly being rearranged.
The first day of spring has also fluctuated between Mar. 20 and Mar. 21 because of the fact that the Earth's elliptical orbit changes its orientation relative to the sun, which means that the Earth's axis is always pointing in a different direction, per Space.com. The pull of gravity from other planets also affects the location of the Earth as it orbits, adding one more potential wrench to what seems like something that should be exact, consistent science.
Another fun springtime astronomy fact? According to Space.com, spring is constantly being reduced by about 30 seconds per year. I know this sounds like a bummer, but summer is actually taking on that extra time from year to year, so we're basically losing minutes from one great season and simply adding them to another great season over time!
Whether you choose to stage your spring celebration on Mar. 1, Mar. 20, Mar. 21, sometime in between or, like, right now, here's hoping that you'll be kicking off a fresh, happy season. It's time to break out the denim jackets, al fresco meals, and sunny attitudes!