Posted at 11:22 AM on December 14, 2007
by Craig Edwards
I was bemused when monitoring national press coverage of ice storm earlier this week from Oklahoma to Indiana. Journalist favored a closing sound bite, noting that the official start of winter was still ten days away. Nature operates on her own time table!
While the shortest daylight hours occur on December 22nd, it is a stretch to equate this late December day with the official start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Temperatures have been down right nippy, when not bitterly cold in much of Minnesota since the waning days of November.
Meteorologists, in an attempt to simplify historical records, cluster the three month period of December through February as the winter season. Indeed, experiencing snowfall, icy winds and sub zero temperatures the last couple of weeks, I’d say winter’s arrival coincided with the meteorologist’s rationale.
To proclaim that the official start of winter comes on the Winter Solstice is to equate the official start of the holiday shopping season on Black Friday. Plenty of shopping takes place well before the Friday after Thanksgiving and a decent amount of winter occurs before the daylight begins to lengthen.
Would it be too arrogant to suggest that journalist call winter when they see it, not assigning the season a specific start up date? From where I sit, I have a hard time believing that the first two weeks of December 2007 could be accurately referred to as late autumn.
I agree with your intent there, Craig. So if the storm happens the day after the solstice, it's a winter storm, but two days earlier, it's a late-fall storm? What's the difference?
Well, sometimes wintry weather can hit early. Recall the Halloween Blizzard. Would one say that winter started on October 31 that year? Especially when nearly all that snow had (officially) melted by Thanksgiving?
I'd like to see the seasons redefined as starting (and ending) on the cross-quarter days, so that the solstices and equinoxes would be in the middle of the season. Summer, to me, should be the quarter (slightly longer due to Earth's elliptical orbit) of the year when the sun is highest in the sky.
Yeah, I know: good luck on that.