Web Log Entry #0085, Friday, October 3, 2003: Day 319
Anchorage Sunrise: 8:09am Sunset: 7:26pm High Temp: 49° Low Temp: 47°
It's been raining. Not the gentle, innocuous drizzle so often found in the Northwest, but a no-nonsense, economy-sized cold rain from the frigid regions of the upper atmosphere. Soaking quickly through anything not fully waterproof, it sucks up whatever warmth it finds, like a thermal leech. This is serious Winter rain.
There's been a lot of weather lately. Two weeks ago it snowed. I figured this was normal, since "Winter" seems to be synonymous with "School Year" up here. Apparently this isn't completely true, as the locals seemed quite shocked. "It's only September!" they said. "It shouldn't snow until Columbus Day!" (Okay, maybe they actually said "Halloween." Apparently free candy from strangers doesn't mean as much if it doesn't involve wearing clunky boots through snowdrifts.) But then it got warm! There was a record-setting day this week. Granted, it was only 62º degrees, but a record, nonetheless. Then just as we thought the warm spurt would bloom into a Native-American Summer, the rains came.
So here's what I'm thinking: If we're getting Winter rain, doesn't that mean it's Winter now? This reminded me of something I read, and since my purpose is not just to amuse myself, but to also educate others, I thought I'd share it. Apparently there isn't a strict scientific standard about the start of the seasons. Most of my life I thought that the equinoxes (equinoxen?) and solstices were the boundaries, so Winter STARTED at the Winter Solstice. This never seemed quite right to me. I mean, December is a Winter month, and it's never seemed that most of the month was just "Late Autumn."
This is like one of those urban legends that have been repeated so many times that everyone believes it must be true. A lot of the media announces the start of each season at an equinox or solstice, but are you going to believe something just because a bunch of TV news anchors says it's true? They just read the tele-prompters, look serious when the frowney-face appears by the text (for "hard news"), and look cheerful when the smiley-face appears (for "human interest" stories). Sometimes the technicians mess up, and you'll see a news anchor happily announcing the stock market plunging three-hundred points, because THEY DON"T KNOW WHAT THEY'RE SAYING! Comprehension is not part of their job description, as long as they look good and exude trustworthiness. But I digress.
The point is, there's no scientific definition of the start of each season, so we should feel free to pick our own. (I'm not just hallucinating here, see The Straight Dope.) One can go with the basic three-month seasons, e.g. Winter is December, January, and February. This is already an improvement, because Summer really is from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and this system put that season solidly on June, July, and August, lining things up nicely. Personally, I favor a flexible season plan, where each season starts when the weather for that season begins. This moves away from the rigid "three months per season" rule and allows each season to last as long as the weather lasts. For example, Winter WOULD last for the entire school year in Alaska, and in Miami it would be one week in January. Summer in Portland would start after Rose Festival (because it ALWAYS rains on Rose Festival), but last through most of September, which is usually beautiful.
This does mean that one really can't PREDICT when a season will end and the next one begins, but think of it as a surprise treat. Instead of calling March 20nd automatically the last day of Winter, we won't know it until it happens. Doesn't it sound like more fun after a long, cold winter, to discover the first buds coming out on the trees, or the first flower pushing up through the melting snow and say "Oh look! It's SPRING!" That's what I'm going to do.
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© 2003 Evan M. Nichols