Meteorological vs. Astronomical Winter Season

Today marks the start of meteorological winter, but this isn't the only way to define the winter season.
Published: Dec. 1, 2020 at 5:57 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - December 1st marks the first day of meteorological winter! There are two ways to distinguish seasons and there is a difference between the two.

Meteorological Winter

  • They are used by climatologists and meteorologists
  • They are determined by the annual temperature cycle
  • Each season takes 3 months out of the year so winter in December, January, and February
  • This makes each season around 90 days. Less variation helps to better analyze climate statistics from year to year or over many years. This can be very useful for things like agriculture and commerce.

Astronomical Winter

  • Astronomical seasons have been observed for a very long time and may be what you’re more familiar with
  • They are determined by the two solstices one in winter and one in summer and two equinoxes one in the fall and spring.
  • This is based on the rotation of the earth around the sun and the tilt of the earth.
  • The start of each season can vary by a day or two every year.
  • In 2020, the Winter Solstice takes place on December 21 and the winter season will go until the spring equinox on March 20, 2021.

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