Spring Equinox


Does it feel like a special weekend to you? It is. This weekend marks the spring equinox. The local weather may not always tell us that spring is here, but it is. The equinox, when the sun passes directly overhead on the equator, will occur this Sunday, the 20th at precisely 23:21 Coordinated Universal Time, or 6:21 pm Central Daylight Time.

If the earth’s rotation was perpendicular to the plane of its orbit, we wouldn’t have much if any variation in seasons. But as most of us learned in grade school, the earth is tilted on its axis by 23 1/2 degree. As a result, variations in the directness of the sunlight hitting the earth vary throughout the year, giving us the seasonality here in temperate zones. While we in the northern hemisphere are celebrating the first day of spring, it is the first day of fall in the southern hemisphere, and perhaps a little less celebrated.

The equinox also provides nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. Sunrise and sunset on the solstice in Bismarck is 7:47 am and 7:56 pm. That is twelve hours and 9 minutes of sunlight. The days will lengthen until the summer solstice on June 21 when we will enjoy a whopping 15 hours and 52 minutes of sunlight. After that, of course, the days shorten until the winter solstice in December.

Each season has its songs, poems, and stories, and as you would expect, spring has its fair share. “Younger than the Springtime” from the Musical South Pacific is a familiar song to many people. If a little oom pah music is your thing, you might enjoy dancing to the “Springtime Polka.”

Some songs even herald the coming of spring in certain areas, such as Copeland’s “Appalachian Spring,” Johnny Horton’s “When It’s Springtime in Alaska,” and “Springtime in Alberta” by Ian Tyson. But I am not aware of any song describing North Dakota in the spring. Perhaps its time for some musically inclined North Dakotan to compose a tune heralding springtime in North Dakota.

Chuck Lura

Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.

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