If you are as anxious as I am for the end of this winter and the start of spring…read on.

In 2014, spring begins with the vernal equinox on March 20 at 12:57 P.M. EDT.

Ah, spring! This season brings increasing daylight, warming temperatures, and the rebirth of flora and fauna.

The word equinox is derived from the Latin words meaning “equal night.”  Days and nights are approximately equal everywhere and the Sun rises and sets due east and west.

At the equinoxes, the tilt of Earth relative to the Sun is zero, which means that Earth’s axis neither points toward nor away from the Sun. (However, the tilt of Earth relative to its plane of orbit, called the ecliptic plane, is always about 23.5 degrees.)

As we move toward spring, the amount of daylight gets longer.  For example, on today’s date March 4th in my hometown, the sun rises at 7:15 am, sets at 6:34 pm, and the length of daylight is 11 hours and 19 minutes.

A week later on March 11th, the sun rises at 8:01 am, sets at 7:43 pm, (Daylight Savings Time started on the previous Sunday), and the length of daylight is 11 hours and 42 minutes.

Another week later on March 18th, the sun rises at 7:48 am, sets at 7:53pm, and the length of daylight is 12 hours and 5 minutes.

And finally another week on March 25th, the sun rises at 7:34 am, sets at 8:03 pm, and the length of daylight is 12 hours and 29 minutes.

But, if you live in North Dakota, the arrival of spring is often times based on the last spring frost date and for me that date does not happen until May 14th.

Question: Why doesn’t the vernal equinox (equal night) on March 20 have the same number of hours for day and night?

Answer:  There are two reasons.  First, light rays from the Sun are bent by the Earth’s atmosphere. (This is why the Sun appears squashed when it sets.)  They are bent in such a way that we are actually able to see the Sun before it rises and after it sets. The second reason is that daytime begins the moment any part of the Sun is over the horizon, and it is not over until the last part of the Sun has set.

Question: According to folklore, you can stand a raw egg on its end on the equinox. Is this true?

Answer: Yes, it is true, but you can do this at other times of the year also.

Spring is also the time when worms begin to emerge from the earth, ladybugs land on screen doors, green buds appear, birds chirp, and flowers begin to bloom.  The vernal, or spring, equinox signals the beginning of nature’s renewal in the Northern Hemisphere.  So watch for that first robin to arrive or for that first crocus to appear to signal the arrival of spring.  The sign that I rely upon is when the skies fill with the beating wings of Canadian geese heading north and you hear the distinctive calls of whooping cranes.

So, put away the flannels and get out the shorts…because spring will be here sooner than you think.

 

 

 

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