Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
Jan Harris
Assistant Editor
9:00 AM 16th March 2020

Why Two Different Dates For The Start Of Spring?

There are two different dates for the start of Spring, depending on whether you are using the meteorological or astronomical calendars for the definition of the seasons.

Cherry blossom
Cherry blossom
Meteorological vs astronomical spring

The Vernal (Spring) Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere is the Autumnal (Fall) Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa.

There are two equinoxes every year - in September and March - when the sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night is nearly equal - but not quite.

In 2020, the spring equinox falls on Friday 20 March, although it can be any date between 19th and 21st of the month.

The Autum Equinox in 2020 is on Tuesday 22 September in the Northern Hemisphere and marks the beginning of autumn.

The meteorological calendar splits the year into four seasons of three months each and so spring begins on 1 March until 31 May.

The astronomical spring will last until the summer solstice, which in 2020 lands on Saturday 20 June, the longest day of the year, marking the start of summer.

In a year there are two equinoxes (spring and autumn) and two solstices (summer and winter).

For our friends in the Southern Hemisphere this means the beginning of autumn.

The meteorological spring has fixed dates each year, whereas the astronomical definition is flexible.

Spring Tulips
Spring Tulips
What does this mean?

With the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere the earth begins to tilt towards the sun which means that our days start to get longer and our nights shorter.

So from 20 March the days will begin to get longer and the nights shorter and this should mean the promise of warmer days and the arrival of spring.

What does equinox mean?

The name comes from the Latin word equi (meaning 'equal') and nox (meaning 'night').

Bluebell wood
Bluebell wood
Bluebells flower in the spring

Walking in Bluebell woods is a delight and a highlight of any springtime walk in the countryside.

Bluebells flower between mid-April and late May, but the best time to see bluebells in the North of England is generally late April to May and they make a colourful backdrop to a springtime walk.

Some places to see bluebells in the North

Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire

Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire

Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire

Rufford Old Hall, Lancashire

Speke Hall, Merseyside

Waterhead, Ambleside

Dunham Massey, Cheshire

When do the clocks go forward?

In 2020 the clocks go forward on Sunday, 29 March at 1am, which means you should put your clock forward an hour.

People often say, "do we put clocks forward or back". An easy way to remember this is 'spring forward, fall back'.

The clocks always go forward an hour on the last weekend in March in spring and go back on the final weekend of October in autumn.