51 Responses to “Sunday Afternoon Bonus LOL (and by the way, it’s kind of weird to be getting a foot and a half of snow two days after Daylight Saving Time begins; I guess it’ll give us an extra hour to shovel)”
“It also messes up the old mnemonic when you have to “spring
forward” during Winter.”
It may be winter where you are, but we’ve had spring weather for at least a month now. The daffodils have joined the crocus and azalea in blooming (of course, the main difference here between winter and spring is that the rain is slightly warmer in the spring. We had a brutal winter this year… snow stuck to the ground on TWO SEPARATE OCCASIONS!
James Pollock, I’m glad someone besides me is on board for Summer Savings Time.
You set the calendar ahead one month at the end of January, and then set it back one month at the end of August. You get one more month of summer, you avoid a month of winter, and you get two or three extra days each year!
“JP, you may consider yourself the winner, because I won’t argue
OOH! What do I win?
“I’m in the Northern hemisphere where Winter ends on March 20″
Meteorological Reckoning is the method of measuring the winter season used by meteorologists based on “sensible weather patterns” for record keeping purposes, so the start of meteorological winter varies with latitude. Winter is often defined by meteorologists to be the three calendar months with the lowest average temperatures. This corresponds to the months of December, January and February in the Northern Hemisphere, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter
So, to recap… you were wrong, I tried to deflect with a joke, then you decided the time was right for a “drop the mic” moment.
There are a number of ways of defining the end of winter… by the weather, by cultural tradition, or by astronomical positioning… none of which makes the end of winter throughout the northern hemisphere fall on March 20. (Besides the obvious fact that a substantial portion of the northern hemisphere doesn’t even experience winter in the first place. In the tropics, there’s only two seasons, neither of which is “winter”.)
PS. No, I didn’t use a “No True Scotsman” argument. It’s good that you quit when you did.
I think it depends on what you call “winter”. Down here, we don’t have the “traditional” (temperate) seasons . We do have the tropical seasons - a dry season (November-May) and a rainy season (June-October, pretty much coinciding with the hurricane season). We had a few days this year when it got into the low 60s and a couple of nights that got to the low 50s (they claimed high 40s, but I don’t believe it), but for the most part it’s been high 70s to mid 80s during the day since November. So - no winter in the common (or even general meteorological) sense. OTOH, astronomically winter started in late December and ends in a couple of weeks. On the third hand is weather - that can be unseasonably warm or cold, and apparently in the northwest, it’s been unseasonably warm and in the northeast in a couple of days, it’ll be unseasonably cold. Does that change the season? (Does the groundhog?)
“Astronomically, mid-winter falls in late December, and mid-spring is a couple of weeks away”
I learned many decades ago that in the northern hemisphere, the standard astronomical convention was that winter begins at the winter solstice and ends at the vernal equinox. That may not apply any more - I’d like to hear what definition you have.
“No, it’s been colder than usual so far this year.”
Well, I (apparently mistakenly) interpreted your earlier comment to be that certain flowers were coming up earlier than usual there, meaning it was warmer than usual. I guess not. My knowledge of how cold it is supposed to be now in various northern areas is limited.
“I learned many decades ago that in the northern hemisphere, the standard astronomical convention was that winter begins at the winter solstice and ends at the vernal equinox. That may not apply any more - I’d like to hear what definition you have.”
The shortest day of the year is the solstice. The next shortest days are the day before, and the day after, the solstice. The next shortest days are the day before, and the day after that. And so on. So astronomically, the solstice is the middle of winter. “Seasonal lag”, which varies because of local geography, means that the seasons we observe, start, peak, and end later than the astronomical “schedule”.
There are many different CULTURAL or “traditional” calendar choices. For example, in the U.S., summer “traditionally” runs from Memorial Day in late May until Labor Day in early September. These tend to align more with the observed weather created by “seasonal lag”, for presumably obvious reasons but I’ll spell it out… if you tell somebody in North America that, astronomically, summer has ended in the first week of August, and it is now autumn, they are not likely to take you seriously. Then again, North Americans look on in disbelief when you tell them the Earth is closest to the sun in wintertime, and that’s astronomically true, as well.
We, probably inevitably, lurched into one of my cherished grumps. In my younger days, I was an astrophysics major, so most what has been mentioned above was quite familiar to me. As noted, the astronomical events like the Vernal Equinox are the midpoints of the “seasons” in terms of insolation. However, the mass of the continents and oceans provides another feature, that of temperature lag. It takes time for those to heat up, so that the actual date of maximum or minimum temperature has shifted.
The TV weather people, among others, refer to the “official” start of whatever season is under discussion. I wondered, “official according to whom?” I have never found any entity in the US or the world that sets those official dates. I think “traditional” is more accurate. I have also not been able to figure out how those particular dates were chosen. There is no scientific basis at all. Still, many treat those days as some sort of boundary and marvel at any day which seems to violate the “official” season.
“However, the mass of the continents and oceans provides another feature, that of temperature lag. It takes time for those to heat up, so that the actual date of maximum or minimum temperature has shifted.”
More significantly, they do not heat (or cool) at the same rate as each other, so different parts of the world get different observed weather patterns based on whether their weather comes from land or sea. In the northern hemisphere’s temperate latitudes, most weather comes from the west. The west coast of a continent gets most of its weather from the ocean (which is slower to warm and cool) while the east coast of a continent gets most of its weather from land (which heats and cools faster). Many (many) other factors also apply (Mountains change things, overcast vs. clear changes things, and spectacular events such as volcanic eruption can change things, too. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Without_a_Summer )
Brian @21: The “meteorological seasons” are “officially” used by, among others, the National Climatic Data Center. Here is an article about the rationale and the history of this definition of the seasons: Meteorological vs. astronomical seasons
Mr. Lipman gets the astronomical seasons wrong in that article.
Another fun assumption that has nothing to do with reality is that each season is precisely the same length as the others. Along with the notion that the transitions between seasons are sharp and clear.
To tangent onto a related quibble, though many will casually speak of the solstice or equinox being “the day when” and then giving it a date, in one technical outlook we would regard the solstice and the equinox as geometrical configurations that are instantaneous (or of very short duration), and those dates being “the day on which the moment of the solstice / equinox occurs”.
And indeed you do sometimes see reporting that gives a time of day.
I won’t try to explain the geometry in words without a diagram, but you could do it yourself I’m sure.
There’s rational support for “equinox” being an instantaneous event, or a 24-hour period, depending on how you define what is happening. “Equinox” literally means that the length of the day is equal to the length of the night, which would be a 24-hour period. Or you can define it in terms of the relationship between the position of Earth in it’s annual trip around the sun and its axial tilt.
Similarly, there’s rational support for “solstice” being defined as “the shortest/longest day/night of the year” (choose one from each pairing). So, if winter solstice is the shortest day and longest night of the year, you can get a time frame that ranges from instantaneous to 24 hours, depending on where exactly you are. Or you can define “solstice” in terms of the relationship between the position of Earth in its orbit and the axial tilt. (And, of course, there’s the fact that the winter solstice and the summer solstice happen at the exact same time, twice per year.)
Sweden also celebrates Midsommer in June around the equinox. It seems to me that it should be in the middle of summer, but it is not. I know this as we go to the Ikea Midsommer smorgasbord.
I saw a show once about Big Ben and how they rest it for the change back and forth and also how they adjust when it is off by small fractions - they have old pennies which are added onto or taken off of the mechanism to change the weight a tiny bit. (Geezer alert - sort of, but not exactly like, putting a coin on the arm of a record player if the record had a problem.
“Brian @21: The “meteorological seasons” are “officially” used by, among others, the National Climatic Data Center. Here is an article about the rationale and the history of this definition of the seasons”
Well, when the TV weather people (usually meteorologists these days) speak of the “official” start they mean the ones associated with the Solstices and Equinoxes. They will sometimes mention the meteorological starts. I object to the notion of an “astronomical start” because if you were doing it purely on astronomy, then those would be the mid-points of the seasons, not the starts as the author of that article claims. Again, only temperature lag makes it sort of come out right. But there isn’t anything “official” about those, yet somehow that got started and is still reiterated when these days occur.
“Well, when the TV weather people (usually meteorologists these days) speak of the “official” start they mean the ones associated with the Solstices and Equinoxes. They will sometimes mention the meteorological starts”
“TV weather people” and “professional meteorologist” are two different categories which may or may not intersect.
ANY discussion of seasons is arbitrary and relative.
I got married in early January, and went to southern California for the honeymoon. We were all “Woo hoo! it’s like 75 degrees out!” and the natives were all “BRRRR! It’s only like 75 degrees out!” I carefully arranged my military service so that I could go off the Basic Training in July and August in San Antonio. As far as I’m concerned, Texas is uninhabitable during the summer. Not because of the midday high temperature, which tended to range between 96 and 99 degrees while I was there, but because it was over 85 at dawn. Yet, there appear to be people who live there year-round, on purpose, who otherwise appear quite normal-looking. It’s almost as if, not being me or having my preferences, they have different preferences entirely which are just as valid as my own. Intriguing.
We were all “Woo hoo! it’s like 75 degrees out!” and the natives were all “BRRRR! It’s only like 75 degrees out!”
I once visited Winnipeg in February. (1979. There was a total solar eclipse.) As the plane was landing, the pilot announced that the temperature was -21°. My friend and I looked at each other. Of course we knew it would be cold, and were prepared, but now it was real.
Later, my friend asked the rental car agent, “Is it really -21°?”
She said, “Yes, but that’s centigrade. It’s -6° Fahrenheit. That’s warm!” Then, noticing our expressions, added, “Oh. Unless you’re not used to it…”
James - @ 14, @16, and @19
What you say - that the solstice is the astronomical middle of winter, not the start - is something that Phil Plait agrees in an article would be a better definition. However, he said it isn’t the existing definition of the season - rather that the seasons start and end at solstices and equinoxes. He doesn’t strictly call these the astronomical seasons, but NOAA does, the Naval Observatory does, the British Meteorological Office does, as does every other source I looked at, including the AMS. If you are interested, there is a paper that was published in the Journal of the AMS (written by someone who is now a Distinguished Senior Scientist at NCAR) that goes into excruciating detail in defining/describing the seasons, which also defines the astronomical seasons as being bounded by the equinoxes and solstices.
There are a lot of ways of defining the seasons, but all the sources I’ve found have said that the common/calendar definition (in North America) is based on the astronomical definition, and the astronomical definition is the periods bounded by the equinoxes and solstices. I still await from you a credible source that supports your contrary definition for the astronomical seasons.
@ Ted (36) & Brian @21&31 - German meteorologists have moved the seasons forward by about three weeks. This is not for JP’s symmetical astronomic purposes, but simply to align the seasons with the calendar months. Thus, the weatherman speaks of March 1st as the first day of spring, but all the standard calendars still have “Frühlingsanfang” on the vernal equinox.
P.S. @ JP (29) - The German Wikipedia does describe a “Mid-Summer Festival“, but if you read the article, it indicates celebrations in all sorts of Scandinavian areas, but not in Germany. Just because the language has a word for it, does not prove that it is part of the culture.
“German meteorologists have moved the seasons forward by about three weeks.”
Yes, meteorologists (not just German ones) define the “winter” as “the three coldest calendar months” and summer as “the three hottest months”. They group the months that have similar weather. This is also how meteorologists define other “seasons”, such as hurricane season or tornado season (where these are relevant).
“The German Wikipedia does describe a “Mid-Summer Festival“, but if you read the article, it indicates celebrations in all sorts of Scandinavian areas, but not in Germany.”
Well, take it up with Wikipedia, because the ENGLISH Wikipedia indicates midsummer celebration in Germany, too.
“European midsummer-related holidays, traditions, and celebrations are pre-Christian in origin. They are particularly important in geographic Northern Europe – Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – but is also very strongly observed in Poland, Russia, Belarus, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, parts of the United Kingdom (Cornwall especially), France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Ukraine, other parts of Europe, and elsewhere – such as Canada, the United States, Puerto Rico, and also in the Southern Hemisphere (mostly in Brazil, Argentina and Australia), where this imported European celebration would be more appropriately called “Midwinter”
And not just in one place, either:
“Observed by Residents of the province of Quebec in Canada, Nordic peoples, Finns, Estonians, Baltic peoples, Russians, Poles, Germans, Belarusians, Neopagans, Unitarian Universalists”
“I still await from you a credible source that supports your contrary definition for the astronomical seasons.”
Gee. You need a credible source for where the sun and Earth are located, relative to each other? How about… the Earth and the sun as “credible sources”?
Astronomically, “winter” is the period when your hemisphere of interest is pointed away from the sun, and “summer” is the period when your hemisphere of interest is pointed toward the sun. (This offer void if you are studying a planet with no axial tilt, or close to a 90-degree axial tilt… “summer” and “winter” will have no application to such a planet.) Many ancient peoples worked this out… coincidentally, perhaps, most of the ancient civilizations were NOT located in temperate latitudes, where seasonal lag complicates the astronomy.
“What you say - that the solstice is the astronomical middle of winter, not the start - is something that Phil Plait agrees in an article would be a better definition. However, he said it isn’t the existing definition of the season - rather that the seasons start and end at solstices and equinoxes.”
Too bad that doesn’t fit with either the observed seasons OR the astronomy. To disprove that notion, one simply has to go to, or even just learn about, the large portions of our world which experience two seasons per year, not four.
As I’ve noted previously, defining four seasons instead of two is entirely arbitrary, as is defining any particular start and stop dates. You can choose biological indicators (flowers are blooming! The leaves are turning). You can choose to go by the weather (it’s getting colder! Now it’s getting warmer! or It’s getting drier! Now it’s getting rainy again!) Or you can go by the astronomical position of the earth and sun (the nights are long and the days are short! Now the days are long and the nights are short!) But what you choose to call “seasons”, and the dates you choose to note or celebrate the changes between them, are entirely up to you. The weather won’t follow what your calendar says, anyway, and may vary considerably from place to place and even from year to year. As also noted previously, the traditional “summer” in the United States runs from Memorial Day in late May to Labor Day in early September. That’s as good a definition as any, and the one I use.
Kilby - that’s another of the “lots of ways” - the meteorological seasons are conventionally (in North America and I believe most/all of Europe) considered to match the calendar: winter is December, January, and February, spring is March, April, and May, etc. (That’s also spelled out in the NOAA, British MET, and AMS paper links I provided.) Ways to define based on actual climate patterns are (as discussed upthread and the AMS paper) very dependent on location (latitude, closeness to the coast and the water temps off that coast, nearness to the jet stream, etc.) so that statistical temperature extreme dates can vary by weeks at different places, making that unsuitable for defining the seasons (to the extent that “seasons” even really mean anything at that level), and definitions based on weather (it’s warm now, the flowers bloomed already, etc.) are pretty useless as they vary so much even in a particular location - or it would have been spring in the northeast last week, but back to winter this week…
“He doesn’t strictly call these the astronomical seasons, but NOAA does, the Naval Observatory does, the British Meteorological Office does, as does every other source I looked at, including the AMS.”
The USNO gets it wrong on the page you cite, but doesn’t actually call that mistake “astronomical seasons”. They get it right here: http://aa.usno.navy.mil/faq/docs/seasons_orbit.php
” when the Earth is at a certain place in its orbit, the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun and experiences summer. Six months later, when the Earth is on the opposite side of the Sun, the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun and experiences winter.”
As to why there is so much agreement settled on the wrong dates for astronomical seasons, I suggest that it is more important that the various authorities agree with each other rather than with abstract principle. See also “time zones” and their effect on “noon”. “Noon” is an astronimical event, that happens at a specific time, always exactly the same for different latitudes but the same longitude; always different for different longitudes regardles of latitude. But it is more convenient to treat an entire range of longitudes as having “noon” at the same time, so that’s what we do. But wait! The time zones are also adjusted for geography (geography can affect the time of sunrise and sunset, but not noon) and even political expediency if it suits the people who decide time zones. You can tell people that “astronimically, noon occurred at 11:53 today”, and they’ll look at you like you’re mumbling nonsense.
So… what I suggest is that you investigate the scientific term “seasonal lag”, which can be defined as “the delay between the astronomical seasons and the observed meteorological seasons”. Incoming solar radiation (insolation) peaks in June, but summer heat doesn’t peak until July or even August. “Seasonal lag” is caused by the different heat absorption properties of land, air, and water, so it varies locally depending on how much of either is located nearby.
So… if meteorological summer begins on June 1, and “astronomical” summer begins on June 21, then the “seasonal lag” can be calculated precisely as negative 20 days. The heat energy has arrived in the Earth’s atmosphere 20 days BEFORE it reaches Earth.
If, on the other hand, we arbitrarily declare that astronomical “summer” is three months long, centered on the solstice, then our “astronomical” summer starts a month and a half before the solstice, and ends a month and a half after the solstice. This does not match the observed weather in the Northern hemisphere’s temperate regions, for a number of reasons. The big one is the previously-mentioned “seasonal lag”… although this time with a useful positive value instead of the nonsensical negative value generated by mis-stating the astronomical season’s starting and ending dates.
Take a look at the diagram on the bottom of page 1277 on the AMS paper you cited.
Note how “Summer” is demarked… it starts on the upward rising curve of the sine wave, continues through the peak, and ends on the downward curve of the sine wave. However, if you use the author’s suggestion for starting and ending dates for “astronomical” summer, summer hasn’t started yet as the sine wave nears peak, starts at peak, and continues all the way down to zero. That’s a fairly obvious mistake (caused by trying to align “astronomical” summer, which would include only astronomic measurements, to meteorilogical summer, which would be calculated by meteorological observations. Astronomical and meteorological season season DO NOT ALIGN because of seasonal lag. Redefining seasons so they’ll match up better is just sloppy science. But that’s what you get when you get your astronomy from meteorologists.)
I don’t want to belabor the various points, but I will mention something about on-air weather reports and meteorologists. Of the two local stations which I use for TV news, all of the weather reports are done by meteorologists. I think each station has at least four these days (one the “chief meteorologist”), because news begins very early in the day anymore, plus weekends and such.
“I don’t want to belabor the various points, but I will mention something about on-air weather reports and meteorologists. Of the two local stations which I use for TV news, all of the weather reports are done by meteorologists. ”
This is a circular argument; all the weather reports on all the TV stations are done by “meteorologists”, because the term “meteorologists” encompasses weather broadcasters.
The difference is that the chief skill of the broadcast meteorologist is the ability to read the script, pronounce the local place names correctly, and adlib banter with the anchors and the sports guy.
The difference is that the chief skill of the broadcast meteorologist is the ability to read the script, pronounce the local place names correctly, and adlib banter with the anchors and the sports guy.
Some of the broadcast weather presenters around here have made a point of displaying some kind of certification seal and promoting their membership in a professional group — probably the American Meteorological Society (AMS).
Of course, they do not control or license the use of the term “meteorologist”. But they do try to protect use of their seal and identification.
Which is not to say their member meteorologists don’t also contribute their share of on-air blather.
“Some of the broadcast weather presenters around here have made a point of displaying some kind of certification seal and promoting their membership in a professional group — probably the American Meteorological Society (AMS).”
There’s around 500 “professional” meteorologists who also do broadcast work and have bothered to earn the AMS’s certificate, which requires (basically) an undergraduate degree in science. (Most people who work in television do not have science degrees). Your local station’s “chief” meteorologist probably has this one, if anyone does.
On the other hand, the NSA ALSO offers a “certification”, which requires a couple of classes and they aren’t hard science, and a couple of years of on-air experience.
Both programs should be viewed as “self-branding”… the professionals who earn these are worried about being replaced with younger, cheaper talent and have little leverage when contract negotiations roll around.
The pros want it because it gives them something that a new fresh hire probably doesn’t have; stations want it because suckers think it makes a difference. The truth is that anyone can read off the NWS report, and that’s exactly what happens in most radio stations.
During a normal newscast, weather occupies around 20-25% of the total show. Most of the time, they tell you what you already know or can learn by looking out a window. Now, there ARE times when the weather report is significant, particularly if you live in a place that has actual life-endangering weather from time to time (I do not). At least here there is some weather variability; as the old joke goes, the easiest job in the world must be weather forecasting in Southern California. “Today’s forecast, sunny and hot. Tomorrow: Sunny and hot. Extended forecast: Sunny and hot. Now, over to Johnny… how ’bout them sports teams, Johnny?”
Way back before we were married we made am August trip to Quebec and Montreal. Robert had been to Canada before with friends (guys) and a trip with his family, but I had never been there.
He thought I was crazy as I packed a sweatshirt - “it’s August!!” I pointed out that I always bring a sweatshirt when I go away - one never knows.
Walking around at night in Montreal he wished he had brought a sweatshirt also. People there were in winter jackets.
When we made a return trip years later to Niagara Falls and Toronto (also August - we both used to be able to take time off in same) he brought a sweatshirt also. But that trip - the same year that “Vacation” came out had its own problems that made the problems in the movie seem like a normal trip.
Even now as he yells “We’re moving to Canada” he follows it up with “well we would if it wasn’t so cold”.