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Astronomical spring arrived today

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The West Michigan weather has not felt like spring lately but astronomical winter officially ended today and spring arrived at 12:57 PM. It is not likely to feel like spring for a few more weeks as the cool and damp weather hangs around.

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Today is the vernal equinox, similar to the autumnal equinox, when fall begins. “Equinox” means “equal night” in Latin. But the day and night aren’t really equal. According to the US Naval Observatory: “On the day of an equinox, the geometric center of the Sun's disk crosses the equator, and this point is above the horizon for 12 hours everywhere on the Earth. However, the Sun is not simply a geometric point. Sunrise is defined as the instant when the leading edge of the Sun's disk becomes visible on the horizon, whereas sunset is the instant when the trailing edge of the disk disappears below the horizon. These are the moments of first and last direct sunlight. At these times the center of the disk is below the horizon. Furthermore, atmospheric refraction causes the Sun's disk to appear higher in the sky than it would if the Earth had no atmosphere. Thus, in the morning the upper edge of the disk is visible for several minutes before the geometric edge of the disk reaches the horizon. Similarly, in the evening the upper edge of the disk disappears several minutes after the geometric disk has passed below the horizon.”

In Grand Rapids we actually had 12 hours of sunlight and darkness on March 17th. So we’re already seeing increased daylight.

By the way, this is the time of year when the daylight grows the fastest. We are currently gaining about three minutes of daylight everyday. The summer day with the most daylight gives us a whopping 15 hours and 21 minutes.

See the slideshow at the top of the page for more on the chilly and wet start to spring.

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