Update on the seasons

I received a private email communication from a reader that had some interesting information about my post yesterday on changing the seasons, also giving this link to the source material.

The seasons starting on the solstices and equinoxes are “astronomical” seasons”. The UK Meteorological Office, and I assume meteorologists and climatologists in general, for weather records, use “meterological” seasons starting of the 1st of the month containing the solstices or equinox – e.g. winter consists of December, January and February.

The beginning dates of these seasons as the 1st of the four months correspond to commenter Trebuchet’s suggestion, though I am still holding out for the 6th day.

The article says that professional meteorologists the world over use this system of ‘meteorological seasons’ but I had never heard of it before. It also says that Sweden and Finland use a season labeling system corresponding to temperature benchmarks.


  1. scotlyn says

    Although I don’t know if this is official policy, in Ireland the seasons are popularly talked about in terms of the old Celtic calendar. May 1st (Bealtaine) is the 1st day of summer, August 1st (Lammas) the first day of autumn, November 1st (Samhaine) is the first day of winter, and Feb 1st (Imbolc, also La na Bride) is the first day of spring.

    This makes sense, if you think about it, of the older European habit of referring to the summer and winter solstices as Midsummer and Midwinter. “Mid” is very hard to construe as the beginning of something.

    Still, not a completely accurate match with weather, though.

  2. scotlyn says

    PS, it also may make sense of the “Groundhog Day” tradition in the US, a fun way to reconcile the 6-week difference between the European calendar and the US one.

  3. Joe says

    In Australia, we have:
    Summer: December, January, February
    Autumn: March, April, May
    Winter: June, July, August
    Spring: September, October, November

    So, people do use the meteorological dates. (Of course, our seasons are flipped because we are upside down)

  4. Trebuchet says

    I’m glad someone agrees! Of course, I live in the Pacific Northwest, which means we actually have only two seasons:
    Summer — July 5 to August 31, conveniently including no major holidays.
    And The Rainy Season.

  5. Jeffrey G Johnson says

    I was going to make this same point, that Australians use the meteorological dates. I have an Australian friend who insisted that summer began Dec. 1st. I said matter of factly that it would actually begin on the solstice, but she was adamant. It seems that the alternate meteorological system is in general public acceptance in Australia, whereas Americans don’t seem to use it at all, and generally have never heard of it, or if they have, not until recently. Americans do seem very reluctant to adopt new systems or standards of measurement, which our stubborn resistance to the metric system has shown. I think it’s all those people who don’t believe in evolution that are holding us back.

  6. says

    Canada has facetiously been described as having 10 months of winter and 2 months of poor sledding.

    In reality, there has always been enough variation that any arbitrary dates for seasons is different from the way we experience them.

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