Despite the freezing temperatures, reports of snow and a “cold snap” hitting the UK, we will actually be saying goodbye to winter and hello to spring in basically no time at all - in fact, depending on which calendar you follow, the season may have already arrived.
This is what you need to know.
When is spring?
How the beginning of spring is defined all depends on whether you’re following the astronomical or meteorological calendar. The Met Office explains: “Astronomical seasons refer to the position of Earth’s orbit in relation to the Sun, considering equinoxes and solstices.
“This is due to the 23.5 degrees of tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis concerning its orbit around the Sun. Since the seasons vary in length, the start date of a new season can fall on different days each year.” This year, astronomical spring will begin on Monday 20 March 2023, and will end on Wednesday 21 June 2023.
However, if you are looking at the meteorological calendar, these seasons are instead based on “the annual temperature cycle and measure the meteorological state, as well as coinciding with the calendar to determine a clear transition between the seasons” according to the Met Office.
The Met Office says: “The meteorological seasons consist of splitting the seasons into four periods made up of three months each. These seasons are split to coincide with our Gregorian calendar, making it easier for meteorological observing and forecasting to compare seasonal and monthly statistics.”
In regards to the meteorological calendar, the seasons are defined as:
Spring: March, April and May
Summer: June, July and August
Autumn: September, October and November
Winter: December, January and February
What’s the spring equinox?
The first day of spring welcomes the vernal equinox, which boasts an almost equal number of daylight and nighttime hours. In this context, the first day of spring refers to the date defined using the astronomical method, which is Monday 20 March this year.
The vernal equinox, also known as the March equinox or the spring equinox, marks the turning point when the hours of daylight officially begin to outnumber the hours of darkness that we experience.
The days have been getting ever so slightly longer and longer since the winter solstice in December, but it’s the vernal equinox that sees the scales tip in favour of more daylight. When the summer solstice occurs later this year, we will enjoy the longest day of the year, with the days therefore gradually getting shorter thereafter.
The word “equinox” itself actually translates to “equal night”, from the Latin words for “aequus” (equal) and “nox” (night).
What flowers bloom in spring?
Another way that some intrepid gardeners mark the beginning of spring is by keeping an eye out for certain flowers that bloom during the season - like the classic yellow daffodils, or tulips which come in all kinds of colours.
Other spring flowers include:
Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
Snowdrops (Galanthus spp)
Crocus (Crocus tommasinianus)
Forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica)
Wallflowers (Erysimum cheiri)