02 March 2011


Yesterday, being 1 March and all, I kept hearing how the spring season had just begun.  Trouble was that the thermometer was reading -18 C (0 F).  This feels pretty much like winter to me; but, welcome to "spring," Moscow style.

1 March in Moscow:  This is NOT spring.

The precise commencement of spring has been a debate topic between my wife and me for over a decade.  She, being Russian, contends that 1 March marks the beginning of spring.  I wax astronomical and  explain that the vernal equinox, occurring on 20/21 March annually (assuming that you are on the Gregorian calendar), marks the true beginning of the spring season.

Equinox happens twice a year and is identified by Earth's equator being on the same plane as the ellipse that defines Earth's orbit around the sun.  Vernal equinox happens when your portion of Earth is tilting towards the sun.  If you happen to be in the northern hemisphere, March 20/21 is your date; if you are a southerner, September 22/23 is your vernal equinox.  The automnal equinox occurs when your part of Earth is tilting away from the sun: September 22/23 if you are a northerner or March 20/21 if you are a southerner.

Giving a shout out to my heritage, I find the modern Persian calendar is the most logical (solar) calendar that I have come in contact with thus far.  A new year begins with the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere.  Seasons are (more or less) neatly tucked away into three month compartments.  The first six months of the year all have 31 days.  Months 7 through 11 all have thirty days.  And the last month if the year has 30 or 29 days based on a year's designation as a leap year - or not.

This is More Like It

In any case, and speaking in astronomical terms, spring is about three weeks away; it is "almost" here.  If your mark of the new season is the buzzing bees and the budding of trees, and you are in Moscow, you will have to wait unti May.  Alas, we still have a ways to go.

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