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Phil’s weekly column – (No) surprise – Spring has arrived!

Today is September 1st and that means we are officially now in spring, almost two weeks since declared and early start to the season.

Yet again the start of the season prompts some debate about when our seasons officially start.  Numerous polls that has run over the years show a significant amount of support for our seasons to start and end on the astronomical dates rather than the meteorological ones.  In other words, spring wouldn’t start until the equinox arrived in three more weeks.

The astronomical date also means summer starts on the longest day of the year – a few days before Christmas, and winter kicks off at the end of June, two to three weeks after Queens Birthday Weekend.

But after years of pondering about which date is most accurate to kick off the new season I simply cannot agree that, for this country, the astronomical dates are better.

While we are indeed enjoying an early start to spring it is fairly normal for the weather in early September to be much warmer, much sunnier and drier then it was a month ago.

For those who are waiting for spring to officially start in three weeks time – how can you deny the spring conditions that have been over the country for a month – and for some areas six weeks – aren’t in fact spring itself?

Since July, daffodils have been up, lambs and calves have been born and buds are coming into bloom.  Even if we didn’t have an early start to spring the spring-like weather would have arrived in mid to late August anyway – as it usually does.  The difference with 2012 is that all of New Zealand kicked off an early start to spring.

Winter is the season when things die off or are dormant – not bursting into life.  The bursting into life part is spring.

The coldest part of winter was, for many regions, the very start of June.   But using the astronomical calendar that means our coldest weather this year arrived mostly in late Autumn and not winter at all – as that calendar doesn’t support a winter kick off until the shortest day of the year in the last week of June.

Again the debate of when our seasons officially start is one not worth losing one second of sleep over.  At the end of the day – who really cares?!  The seasons arrive when they arrive.  They don’t wait for a date.

In a nation like ours – two mountainous large islands in the South Pacific and smack bang in the Roaring 40s – we tend to miss out on many of the extremes a lot of other countries have.  Like Australia’s monster cyclones, huge heatwaves and incredible electrical storms.  Or Canada’s winter storms, arctic temperatures, or summertime tornados. 

I’d argue that New Zealand is not sub-tropical in the north and neither is it wintry in the south.  We are a temperate climate that allows us to wear t-shirts in winter and sometimes we get cold changes in summer.

When we’re truly honest with ourselves New Zealand has just a two month summer and a two month winter.

The other eight months are spring and Autumn – a mixture of cold and warm days, wet and dry, windy and calm. 
Sound familiar?

Or maybe the song “Four seasons in one day” sums up New Zealand best…whether it’s winter, summer, autumn or, in fact, spring.

– Follow Philip Duncan on Twitter –


Guest on 31/08/2012 8:46pm

Nicely written Phil couldn’t agree more.

Derek on 31/08/2012 8:04pm

Great reading Phil and I can agree with your opinion about our climate. Have long been of the impression that we only get 2 months summer & winter and the rest is a mixed bag with no extremes.

sw on 31/08/2012 7:25pm

That silly saying “At the end of the day” on here now,lost its true meaning.Anyway about the spring debate, spring starts at around the astronomical equinox..23rd.Compared to winter,yes more sunlight now,but is under 0 spring,some areas still having that,18c in isolated areas is tops at present,Mid teens are common many days in mid winter too.Compare now to mid april,the suns the same intensity but its nowhere like the weather then as autumns lagging and feels more like summer then.

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