You don’t have to look far to see signs of spring. From the budding of the trees and the warming of the temperatures to the animals coming out of their winter hideouts, there seems to be a promise of new birth and color in the springtime air.
The first day of spring in the U.S. is considered to be around March 20 or 21, depending on what day the vernal equinox occurs. This is when the sun sits directly above the equator on its apparent trip northward. Of course this sun isn’t moving; Earth is. As Earth revolves around the sun, the top half, called the Northern Hemisphere, becomes tilted more toward the sun as winter turns to spring. Meanwhile the bottom half, the Southern Hemisphere, becomes tilted more away from the sun. So it is autumn for people in Australia and the southern parts of Africa and South America.
The word “equinox” comes from Latin and means “equal nights.” Around March 20, sunrise and sunset are about twelve hours apart everywhere on Earth. Because of that, a lot of people think that day and night are of equal length on March 20. But actually the day is a little longer than the night on this date. There are a few reasons for that. Sunrise occurs when the top of the sun (not the center) is on the horizon. But the sun actually appears to be above the horizon when it is in fact still below it. That’s because Earth’s atmosphere refracts or “bends” light coming from the sun, so we see the sun a couple of minutes before it actually rises over the horizon. If you add the daylight that persists after sunset, you’ll find the day on the equinox is several minutes longer than the night.
Variety in Spring Weather
In the United States, spring is a time of transition not only for plant and animal life, but for the weather too. It can mean weather extremes from very cold and snowy days to humid and stormy days. Some of the country's biggest snowfalls have occurred in March, and the period from March to May is the time of year when much of the south is most likely to get severe thunderstorms with hail and even tornadoes. This is why the beginning of spring is a good time to put together a plan for what you and your family would do in case of a severe thunderstorm or tornado. Go here for some ideas on how to do that.
The Yolk's on You!
Has anyone ever told you that you can balance a raw egg on end on the first day of spring? They think that somehow the pull of gravity is more equal on this day because the sun is more directly overhead. There is no scientific support for this. The egg legend apparently got its start in 1945 when a reporter for Life Magazine wrote a story about a Chinese ritual in which people stood eggs on end on the first day of spring. But the Chinese recognized the first day of spring in early February, or about six weeks before the spring equinox! Later, in 1983, one hundred New Yorkers got together on March 20 to balance eggs, and an article about the event appeared in the New Yorker magazine. A year later, five thousand New Yorkers repeated the tradition on the first day of spring, and the egg legend grew.
The truth is that if you can get a raw egg to balance upright on the spring equinox, you can get it to balance any other day of the year. The pull of gravity or the position of the sun in the sky has nothing to do with it. So don’t spread this unscientific rumor, or you’ll end up with egg on your face!
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©Copyright 2004 Nick Walker/Small Gate Media