When Do the Seasons Start in 2020?

Celebrate the First Days of Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer

August 26, 2020
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter 360

When do all of the four seasons—fall, winter, spring, and summer—start and end? Find your equinox and solstice dates for 2020 and 2021—plus, learn the difference between an astronomical season and a meteorological season.

When Do the Seasons Begin?

Each season has both an astronomical start and a meteorological start. It sounds complicated, but trust us, it’s not! The astronomical start date is based on the position of the Sun in relation to the Earth, while the meteorological start date is based on the 12-month calendar and the annual temperature cycle. See below for a more in-depth explanation.

The First Days of the Seasons

Seasons of 2020 Astronomical Start Meteorological Start
SPRING Thursday, March 19, 11:50 P.M. EDT Sunday, March 1
SUMMER Saturday, June 20, 5:44 P.M. EDT Monday, June 1
FALL Tuesday, September 22, 9:31 A.M. EDT Tuesday, September 1
WINTER Monday, December 21, 5:02 A.M. EST Tuesday, December 1
Seasons of 2021 Astronomical Start Meteorological Start
SPRING Saturday, March 20, 5:37 A.M. EDT Monday, March 1
SUMMER Sunday, June 20, 11:32 P.M. EDT Tuesday, June 1
FALL Wednesday, September 22, 3:20 P.M. EDT Wednesday, September 1
WINTER Tuesday, December 21, 10:58 A.M. EST Wednesday, December 1

Note: The dates above correspond to the start of the listed seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. Times are based on Eastern time (ET). Subtract 3 hours for Pacific time, 2 hours for Mountain time, 1 hour for Central time, and so on.

Definition of “Season”

What exactly is a “season”? Astronomists and meteorologists define seasons differently. 

  • The astronomical start of a season is based on the position of the Earth in relation to the Sun. More specifically, the start of each season is marked by either a solstice (for winter and summer) or an equinox (for spring and autumn). A solstice is when the Sun reaches the most southerly or northerly point in the sky, while an equinox is when the Sun passes over Earth’s equator. Because of leap years, the dates of the equinoxes and solstices can shift by a day or two over time, causing the start dates of the seasons to shift, too.
     
  • In contrast, the meteorological start of a season is based on the annual temperature cycle and the 12-month calendar. According to this definition, each season begins on the first of a particular month and lasts for three months: Spring begins on March 1, summer on June 1, autumn on September 1, and winter on December 1. Climate scientists and meteorologists created this definition to make it easier to keep records of the weather, since the start of each meteorological season doesn’t change from year to year.

Because an almanac is an astronomical “calendar of the heavens,” The Old Farmer’s Almanac follows the astronomical definition of the seasons.

Temperate regions of Earth experience four seasons because of shifting sunlight, which is determined by how the Earth orbits the Sun and the tilt of our planet’s axis.

As the Earth progresses through its orbit during the year, the tilt causes different parts of the Earth to be exposed to more or less sunlight, depending on whether we are tilted towards or away from the Sun.

Equinox solstice cycle
Photo Credit: NASA

Why Are The Seasons Different Lengths?

It can sometimes feel like winter is dragging on forever, but did you know that its actually the shortest season of the year? (In the Northern Hemisphere, that is.)

Thanks to the elliptical shape of Earth’s orbit around the Sun, Earth doesn’t stay the same distance from the Sun year-round. In January, we reach the point in our orbit nearest to the Sun (called perihelion), and in July, we reach the farthest point (aphelion). Read more about perihelion and aphelion.

When Earth is closer to the Sun, the star’s gravitational pull is slightly stronger, causing our planet to travel just a bit faster in its orbit. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, this results in a shorter fall and winter, since we are moving faster through space during that time of the year. Conversely, when Earth is farthest from the Sun, it travels more slowly, resulting in a longer spring and summer. (The opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere.)

In other words, it takes Earth less time to go from the autumnal equinox to the vernal equinox than it does to go from the vernal equinox to the autumnal equinox.

Due to all this, the seasons range in length from about 89 days to about 94 days. 

The Four Seasons

What defines each season? Below is a brief explanation of the four seasons in order of calendar year. For more information, link to the referenced equinoxes and solstices pages.

Spring

On the vernal equinox, day and night are each approximately 12 hours long (with the actual time of equal day and night, in the Northern Hemisphere, occurring a few days before the vernal equinox). The Sun crosses the celestial equator going northward; it rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west. See our First Day of Spring page

Crocus field spring

Summer

On the summer solstice, we enjoy the most daylight of the calendar year. The Sun reaches its most northern point in the sky (in the Northern Hemisphere) at local noon. After this date, the days start getting “shorter,” i.e., the length of daylight starts to decrease. See our First Day of Summer page

Sunflower bees

Autumn (Fall)

On the autumnal equinox, day and night are each about 12 hours long (with the actual time of equal day and night, in the Northern Hemisphere, occurring a few days after the autumnal equinox). The Sun crosses the celestial equator going southward; it rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west. See our First Day of Fall page.

Fall leaves

Winter

The winter solstice is the “shortest day” of the year, meaning the least amount of sunlight. The Sun reaches its most southern point in the sky (in the Northern Hemisphere) at local noon. After this date, the days start getting “longer,” i.e., the amount of daylight begins to increase. See our First Day of Winter page.

Winter solstice

What’s your favorite season—and why? Let us know in the comments below!

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Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Definitely Winter

I have epilepsy so I can't be in the heat because of my sezures. So my favorite season is winter. I love going outside. It's fun. My family thinks I'm crazy because I love the cold so much.

Favorite season is fall into winter

I live in Alabama. The summer is awful. I hate hot weather and the AC bills. Used to like it as a child, but school was out. We rarely get snow but when we do everyone enjoys it. My husband was from Pa. and hated cold weather but He hated shoveling it too. But I will take cooler weather all the time.

Seasons

After giving this a few minutes of thought, I've come to the conclusion that I truly like all four seasons for what each has to offer. I feel this is due to the transitions from one season to another.

When winter releases its grip and gives into Spring, it's a time of renewal. Ice and snow give way to green landscapes and flower buds. Late spring sees the trees becoming fuller and the whitetail fawns, full of spots, running in the fields.

By the beginning of Summer, vacations to the beech, and long days allow for getting a lot of fun crammed into the day. The last days of summer feel brutally hot and any relief would be welcomed.

Enter Autumn... The days get noticeably shorter and there is a crispness to the air that you can smell. As we fully embrace Fall, we do so in sweatshirts and light jackets. The feel of a campfire on your face (and backside) is so welcomed. Iced tea consumption goes down and cider, both cold and hot, increases. For some reason, I don't drink hot chocolate during the previous two seasons, but I sure do make up for during Fall and Winter. Oh, and Thanksgiving, don't get my started. I love to eat and all that I need is a reason.

Speaking of Winter, this season holds my favorite holiday, Christmas (my birthday as well, but His is greater)! Coats, boots, and 4-wheel drive are the order of the day. Going outside is always an adventure. I'm old enough that shoveling snow and cleaning off vehicles it's something that I can do anytime of the day (read retired), but snow still brings out my inner child.

By the end of Winter, I'm ready for Spring once more. Why do we always seem to get a snow storm when I'm ready for the daffodils to pop up...? I guess it makes me appreciate the coming Spring that much more.

Ok, backed against a wall, I'd have to go with Autumn as my favorite season. Cooler days, campfires, Halloween, Thanksgiving, [Christmas season], and all of the decorations that go with each.

favorite season

winter / Love for it to snow everything looks soo pure. untouched snow is beautiful

My favorite season

My favorite season is fall or autumn the only season with 2 names when leaves are falling and changing color it starts to cool down I love the cool weather I come from new England where its beautiful in the fall.

Any season but winter

Lived all my life in northerly climes. Retired to southerly climes. Wish I had done this 20 years ago :)

Summer and Spring

Summer and spring are my favorite seasons; I love the warm weather of spring, and also, my birthday's in the summer! (August 5)

Happy fall y'all

what I love the most about fall is everything! I love decorating my porch, raking leaves and the beautiful color of the trees, pumpkins and warm cider too. We live really close to a 100 acre park and the smell of the campfires in the air is something to remind me fall is here!

Definitely Fall

The change from hot summer to cool fall is the best. It brings back memories of being in high school going to football games and having parties around a bon fire. The smell of dead leaves brings back so many childhood memories out in the yard playing. And you cant forget Halloween! The best holiday of all!!!

seasons

I like all the seasons, but I particularly love summer firstly, then good ole spring, can’t forget fall, with fresh crisp air, yes indeed. But when it comes to winter it sure finds a way to where out its welcome.

Summer

I live in New York but I'm from Miami. I miss the sunshine all year long.

"Four Seasons"

Good mornin all at 'The' Old Farmer's Almanac

Being originally from southern New Brunswick, Canada I was brought into this world in late Autumn and my siblings are all 1st. generation 'city slickers,' My mum / father all hail from the countryside about 40 miles due north of the big city of Moncton! Farm territory, hunting, fishing, trapping and lumbering! Spent a heck of alot of time on my Grandparents farm which was in my mum's family since approx. 1800 owned by the Stevens! My grandfather being a Spencer! As with some of the contributors, I enjoy all seasons and have settled my sentiment in that manner of speaking, but if I was nudged a wee bit I'd say WINTER! Oh, why? Well it's truly the survival season and a lot around the farm reflects all year what one has to do to prepare for it! It has a super blessing of bringing the coldest of cold and this wipes the earth clean of all it's tesitude of diseases and for this one miracle alone I cherish winter!

In closing, it's so wonderful to have such a enriched process of this format to cherish & share the insightful thoughts your supporters bring and beautify your legacy! Have a super winter, hot chocolate, warm cider and a wee dram of what ale's the spirit!

Fraternally all,
N. F. Bryant
Toronto, On. Can.

Thank you

The Editors's picture

Thank you, N.F. Bryant from Toronto! We very much enjoyed reading about your life on the farm, your tribute to winter, and your positivity! 

I love the spring, its feel

I love the spring, its feel good time, because all the trees a d plants start to bud andbloom pit, everything comes back to life again, iove that all the beauty Round us ,

Favorite season

I like weather that ranges from the 60's to middle 80's with no strong wind. And I don't like winter very much but it is Wyoming. So I probably like the middle to late spring and early summer weather the best for my favorite season. If I had a favorite presipitation I would take the rain over snow. I like longer daylight, but don't like the bugs that come out in the spring and summer.

Hello

Cute article! Love the seasons :)

Seasons

I have a love for all seasons. Winter for its icy beauty and quiet calm. Spring for its renewal of our spirits. Summer for its playfulness. And fall for its humbling gratitude of what mother earth has given us.

Spring for the tress starting

Spring for the tress starting to bud. Summer because it's warmer.. Fall for the beautiful colors of the trees.

Love them all

I live in NE so I love them all. I would be bored with just 1 or 2. Each season brings a new way of looking at the world. My problem is that I would like more time to enjoy each one of them.

Seasons

Amazing explanation on our Seasons, all four are my favourite, do they support each other for the greater good-oh what a mighty God we serve!

All the best 24/7!

Best regards,

Michael

Seasons

Amen ! Well said Michael

My favorite season is Winter

I love the winter months most of all because of the cold. The winter is more romantic, peaceful, the attitude of people is calm and caring, there’s just more love in the air.

Favorite season

Love summer! Love the longer hours of daylight. The warm sunshine. Beach days, blooming flowers! Love everything about summer!

Fall is my favorite!

Here in North Carolina, I love fall the best! The fall foliage is beautiful, the temperature is just right, and (barring hurricanes!) the weather is usually clear and dry with a brilliant blue sky. The only downside is the days are getting shorter and darkness falls sooner and sooner, but there's a golden mellow to fall that I adore.

Autumn

Fall is by far my the best season, beautiful colors and lovely weather. Perfect!!!

My favourite season

I love the Summer the best. I really enjoy having the windows open all the time and I adore the heat.

Beautiful

I love the four images you have for the four seasons, they are so magical and vibrant. My favourites are the part of summers not too hot, the parts of fall and winter not too cold, and all of spring. I think seasons are more beautiful if you have beautiful people to share them with!

Favorite Season

Spring! Everything comes alive again! The sweet little crocus coming up in the warm sun, even threw a coating of snow! Mtge snow drops! The maples budding with the promise of new leaves and cover for my chickens, lovingly known as “the Peepers”! The pink dogwood that always blooms for Mother’s Day, and the Lily of the Valley that always blooms for my daughters’ birthday! Followed by the May blooming Iris!
What’s not to love about spring???

Favorite Season

I love summer! I'm out of school and I am carefree and summer is full of fun and trips to take. I get to spend all day with family and friends. It is warm all day long and I can go out early and it won't be cold. Spring is also great too.

Spring

What's not to love about Spring? How about too much rain, spring is wet and mucky most of the season.

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