date, weather, definition of the equinox… Know everything

Spring Equinox 2022: date, weather, definition of the equinox... All you need to know

SPRING. This Sunday, March 20, is the Equinox of this Sunday, March 20. A harbinger of warmer temperatures and sunnier days. We tell you all about the phenomenon.

[Mis à jour le 19 mars 2022 à 15h19] This Sunday, March 20, 2022 marks the return of spring. The spring equinox will take place, very precisely, at 4:33 p.m. and 23 seconds (French time), but only for the countries of the northern hemisphere, as reported by theInstitute of Celestial Mechanics and Ephemeris Calculation found at the Observatoire de Paris, in the 14th arrondissement of the capital. But how is the phenomenon characterized? First of all, the days will be longer than the nights, and this until the autumnal equinox. Scientifically speaking, this is the time of year when the Earth, which is leaning (i.e. its axis of rotation is tilted by 23.4° with respect to its orbit), goes from sunshine to another. The sun will indeed come to cross the terrestrial equatorial plane from south to north.

First immediate effect of the first day of spring: the length of the day is the same as the length of the night (12 hours/12 hours) and the sunshine begins to extend in the northern hemisphere and therefore in France, with a gain 4 minutes of brightness per day! Weather, definition, explanatory diagram, scientific data… Go behind the scenes of the equinox by browsing our special page.

The season of the first buds, the first rays of sunshine and the first sunburns will start this Sunday, March 20, 2022, after a week marked by cloudy skies. The “regions of the northern half” of France “will be favored with more clearings than in the south”, underlines TF1 Météo. The beginning of spring will be marked by milder temperatures “often over 15 degrees” in the north of France, but beware of the small drop in temperature in the afternoon in Normandy, Alsace and Île-de-France. -France.

In the west of Provence, in the department of Hérault and in Languedoc-Roussillon, we will have the impression of having passed on the other hand to the autumn season because of the “heavy Cevennes rains”, with precipitation ranging from up to “150 or even 200 mm of rain”. But all this is nothing out of the ordinary. Indeed, the spring weather can sometimes be more capricious. Late cold weather can characterize the first days of spring, as it happens once every 3 to 4 years.

The 2022 Spring Equinox takes place on Sunday, March 20 at 4:33 p.m. and 11 p.m. seconds french time (3:33 p.m. and 11 p.m. seconds universal time). From an astronomical point of view, spring begins at the time of the vernal equinox, which can take place between March 19 and 21. It lasts until summer solstice. This means that spring lasts about three months. The date of the equinox is calculated for each year by astronomers and mathematicians. It is a question of predicting the exact moment when the plane of the equator and that of the trajectory of the Earth coincide. A calculation made necessary by the gap between our calendar, our time system and the movements of the stars. First, the Earth’s orbit is not perfectly circular, which means that depending on its position in this orbit, the Earth can be more or less close to the sun (between 147 million kilometers minimum and 152 million kilometers maximum). This inevitably makes the lengths of each season very irregular and therefore the variable spring date.

Another explanation: the Earth does not take exactly 365 days to circle the Sun. In this our Gregorian calendar, established in the 16th century, is much too simplistic. Indeed, it takes 365.2422 days to be exact (365 days, 5 hours and 46 minutes) for us to have made a full circle around the star! We are therefore obliged to add from time to time a February 29 (during leap years) to partially (and only partially) correct this discrepancy. A one-time addition that artificially pushes back the spring date by one day during leap years. This explains why astronomers have “advanced” it to March 20 last year. And that the situation arises again this year.

When Caesar established the Julian calendar in 45 BCE, the vernal equinox was set for March 25, based on imprecise observations at the time. But the absence of February 29 in this ancient calendar ended up moving this date to March 11 in the 16th century… It was only when the Gregorian calendar (the one we use today) was established. , in 1582, that a date approaching March 21 was chosen.

The date of “common” spring should not be confused with that of meteorological spring, which begins on March 1 each year, allowing meteorologists to make their seasonal calculations on the scale of entire months. In meteorology, it is considered that spring begins on March 1 and ends on May 31: in this discipline, spring is characterized as a period of warming temperatures (in our latitudes) and an increase in the duration of the day. It is also one of the most difficult seasons to analyze in this discipline. However, it is the equinox that continues to mark the advent of spring in people’s minds. Witness the demonstrations organized around March 20 in France, starting with the spring of cinema.

The word equinox comes from the Latin “æquinoctium” (“equal night”) for the most visible phenomenon for man is that the duration of the day becomes identical to that of the night. The reason for this phenomenon? The equinox corresponds to the time of the year when the Sun crosses the equatorial plane of the earth. The star is then at the zenith of the Equator, which allows day and night to share the time equally. And this in both hemispheres, southern and northern. On our side, the days are getting longer and we are halfway between the short days of December and the long days of June. During the equinox, the axis of rotation of the Earth on itself and the axis of rotation of the Earth around the Sun therefore correspond exactly. On our planet, during the equinox, our star appears due east at dawn to disappear due west.

This phenomenon is also related to geometry. The Earth’s axis of rotation is naturally inclined at 23.4° with respect to the plane of its orbit. In other words, our planet “leans” in relation to the plane on which it revolves around the Sun (see diagram below). The star therefore illuminates it differently depending on the time of year. This phenomenon explains why the days lengthen or shorten between summer andwinter. This also gives rise to the seasons, due to the heating or cooling of the air masses and the oceans according to the time spent each day under the rays of the star. The distance between the sun and the Earth, on the other hand, has no direct link with the temperature. Know for example that the Earth reaches the closest point to the sun (the perihelion) on January 3, ie in the heart of our winter.

It is the tilt of the Earth that causes the ball of the seasons. © Peter Hermes Furian / 123RF

The equinox occurs twice a year: between March 19 and 21 (spring or vernal equinox) and between September 22 and 23 (autumnal equinox). In spring, the duration of sunshine increases at the equinox to reach 16 hours at the end of June, during the summer solstice. Conversely, the autumnal equinox begins a period of reduction of the day which goes down to just over 8 hours at winter solstice, around December 21. During the equinox, on the other hand, no jealousy: day and night are supposed to last 12 hours each. However, these data vary slightly since the shape of the Earth is not perfectly regular and the atmosphere slightly deflects the sun’s rays. Thus, in Paris, on March 20, last year, the sun rose at 6:52 a.m. and set at 7:03 p.m. The length of the day was therefore very slightly longer than 12 hours. It is also at the time of the equinoxes that the length of the day increases/decreases the fastest in our latitudes.

Spring equinox and pagan festival are closely linked. Thus, different celebrations of the vernal equinox around March 21 existed in very ancient times, some of which still survive today. Among them are the bonfires which symbolize liberation from the darkness of winter; or the cakes offered to a deity; when it is not a straw mannequin that is burned or launched, as if to “destroy” winter.

Now that you know everything about the vernal equinox, learn more about the autumnal equinox ! also invites you to discover our files on the summer solstice and the winter solstice

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