Ask a Climatologist: The spring equinox doesn’t mark the start of spring

The spring equinox occurred at 8:15 this morning in Alaska. And no, that doesn’t mean you can balance a raw egg on end.

It does mean that the sun is directly over the equator, giving equal amounts of daylight and darkness around the world.

Brian Brettschneider is a climatologist based in Anchorage with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He says the March equinox is often confused with the first day of spring.

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Interview Highlights:

It’s not the first day of spring, in terms of climate. It’s the 20th day of spring. In climate terms, spring is March, April and May in the northern hemisphere.

It’s a lot colder on the spring equinox than the fall equinox, even though there’s the same amount of daylight. That’s because of something called thermal lag. The earth is about two-thirds ocean water and that water takes a long time to heat up in the summer. So the warmest temps occur after the summer solstice. It also takes a long time to cool down after the fall equinox.

We move slower around the sun during the time from the spring equinox over to the fall equinox. The warm half of the year is 186 days, while the cold half of the year is about 178 days.

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Annie Feidt is the Managing Editor for Alaska's Energy Desk, a collaboration between Alaska Public Media in Anchorage, KTOO Public Media in Juneau and KUCB in Unalaska. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace. Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49th state just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon. afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie