Did you think that Fall–or Autumn, if you prefer–begins today at 5:05 EDT? Well, it does and it doesn’t. It all depends on who you consult and what you are using as the measure.
For meteorologists, Autumn began September 1. Meteorological Fall consists of September, October and November. Meteorological Winter begins December 1 and Meteorological Spring begins on March 1. You see how this works. The theory behind these seasons is that the months that they contain have the most “typical” weather for those seasons. There might be a lot of debate about that lately, but that’s the theory.
As for the Equinox, weren’t we taught in school that this was the day when the day and night were of equal length? Well, as it turns out, that’s just a simplistic explanation for what really goes on too. Actually, that isn’t what happens at all. This article from Wikipedia sums it up nicely and has some decent graphics as well.
Still September, and its equinox, is a cause for celebration as this article from last Sunday’s New York Times points out. Its writer and I apparently were having some of the same thoughts, even though I drafted this post on September 15 (hard to know when he drafted his).
Even the old saying that the summer solstice is the longest day of the year or the winter solstice is the shortest isn’t exactly true for most folks. I know in my part of the world, after the winter solstice, the sunset time gets later and later but the sunrise time still continues to get later as well until well into early January–something I find thoroughly depressing. It’s not until I see the sky starting to lighten earlier in the morning that I feel that winter is really beginning to loosen its grip (and even then, nature may have other ideas!)
So the whole idea of when the seasons begin and end is actually a very fluid concept both in actuality and in practicality. As for me, I’m hoping for a long, mild fall to ease us into winter. I haven’t even bothered to consult the Old Farmer’s Almanac about the winter. I don’t want to know. When I see where the squirrels build their nests, I’ll know what to expect. They were right on last year!