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Did you know there are 4 different end dates to Winter?

When it comes to the end of Winter and start of Spring, New Zealanders have the choice of four dates – and none are official.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs confirmed to a decade ago that the Government has no official preference on when the seasons change. MetService and NIWA talk about both the Astronomical and Meteorological dates to the seasons, with the Meteorological date used the most and very publicly by both of those Government Agencies.

However there are actually four different end dates to Winter – and you can take your pick as to which one you prefer to go by.

When does Winter end and Spring start? It all depends on what your definition of ‘winter’ is…

  • Astronomical Date (Winter starts on the shortest day, which was June 22 this year – spring therefore doesn’t start until the equinox which this year is on Sept 23) – this is based on the earth’s tilt and rotation around the sun and not the weather here. Once the days get longer than the nights this naturally triggers many plants and animals into “spring mode”.
  • Meteorological Date (Winter starts on June 1, Spring starts Sept 1). The meteorological dates are used by most weather forecasters globally as it’s easiest for record keeping (clean dates, unlike the astronomical dates) and in NZ the meteorological winter connects with the three coldest months of the year.
  • Solar Winter (The 3 months / 12 weeks of the year with the least amount of available sunlight with the shortest day of the year smack bang in the middle of it – meaning the Solar Winter runs from early May to early August). Usually covers the coldest period of weather – and the time we as humans feel most gloomy with the ‘shortest’ days. For the lower South Island it’s the ‘bleakest’ time of year with limited bright light sunshine hours.
  • Mother Nature – (When it’s most obvious with signs from nature). For over 15 years has said the reality is that New Zealand really does have a short 2 month summer and a short 2 month winter… the other 8 months are a long drawn out spring and autumn set-up… at least from a weather point of view. NZ’s location on earth mean we’re in a “Goldilocks” belt of weather that isn’t too cold in winter and doesn’t get extremely hot in summer. We see the evidence of a short winter in NZ in the form of animal life cycles, pollen, flowers, buds and grass growth which can all occur in so called “winter”.

    Of course there are mechanical / technical changes in plants once we pass the astronomical date later in September and the days get longer than nights – but people across NZ have said despite the cold August this year they’ve seen many signs of spring starting to arrive in recent weeks.

Photo: @KeithPetrie



Trace on 20/03/2021 8:42pm

What about December? LoL I think you mean Dec-Feb; Mar-May etc.

Frankie on 31/08/2020 11:18pm

You forgot to mention the season known, in Wellington at least, as “Shitsville”

Mrs Pitt on 4/03/2022 1:19am


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