When Do the Seasons Start in 2019-2020?

Celebrate The First Days of Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall

November 1, 2019
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter 360

When do the four seasons—winter, spring, summer, and fall—start? Here are your equinox and solstice dates for 2019 and 2020—plus, the definition of the astronomical season versus the 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

Note: These 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.

Seasons of 2019 Astronomical Start Meteorological Start
SPRING Wednesday, March 20, 5:58 P.M. EDT Friday, March 1
SUMMER Friday, June 21, 11:54 A.M. EDT Saturday, June 1
FALL Monday, September 23, 3:50 A.M. EDT Sunday, September 1
WINTER Saturday, December 21, 11:19 P.M. EST Sunday, December 1
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

Astronomical Season vs. Meteorological Season

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. However, we have listed both dates for each season above.

Why Do the Seasons Change?

We have the four seasons because of shifting sunlight (not temperature!)—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, 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 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

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.

Length of seasons

When looking at the dates for the astronomical seasons I found it odd that spring and summer are 93 days and fall and winter are 89 days. I wonder why that is. My initial thinking is the length of days would be the same except for leap year.

Why The Seasons Are Different Lengths

That’s a good observation! The difference in the lengths of our seasons stems from the shape of Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Because our orbit is an ellipsis, Earth does not stay the same distance away from the Sun for the whole year; we reach our closest point to the Sun (perihelion) in January and our farthest point (aphelion) in July. Read more about this phenomenon here.

Thanks to the pull of gravity, objects travel slightly faster in their orbits when they’re closer to the object they’re orbiting. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, this results in winter being the shortest season—we are literally 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 long summer. (These are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere.)

If our orbit was a perfect circle and we always remained the same distance from the Sun, then our seasons would be almost identical in length. 

Favorite season

Winter. I prefer the darkness. I like shorter hours of daylight.

Winter

You prefer the darkness? Most people find winter depressing because of so much darkness, and don't care for eating dinner at 5:00pm in the dark. Winter is so cold and desolate......burrrrrrr

Seasons

My favorite season is Summer. The reason I like this season is because it's warm and my birthday is July 2nd. I also like Summer because it is a nice season to be outside and to go places.

Seasons

My favorite time of the seasons is FALL. We witness the beauty of leaf colors especially in Deep East Texas.

Texas

I used to live in Texas but I moved because of the hot, hot Summer's.

winter begins

is miss printed as dec. 21,2018 11:someting pm in the paper back sold form 2018 / 2019. is there more wrong info?

don;t no with to plant i at this time of the year

can you tell me what i can put in the grand i am in FL zip is 32428

Things to plant during winter

You can plant onions, shallots, garlic, peas, and radishes during the winter. There are other things but these are just the ones in my knowledge.

Favorite season

Spring is my favorite season. It signals the start of new growth.
Autumn is my next. I LOVE the colors fall brings to the landscape.

Favorite season

Fall is by far my favorite season. We live on the side of a mountain where the colors are spectacular and I also prefer the cooler temps. I also do love winter and spring, I enjoy the snow and the Christmas season in winter and the renewal of life in the spring. I only tolerate summer because I grow a large vegetable garden, if not for that I would be just fine with no summer at all.

On the side of a mountain

The Editors's picture

It sounds lovely, Monte. Thank you for sharing this impression. As for summer…be careful what you wish for! We think you just might miss that veg garden if there was no summer at all. (We sure would miss our veg gardens!)

Favorite Season

I love summer. Long, pretty days, short pleasant nights. All of nature’s beauty on display. Being outdoors without having to add 10 pounds of clothing, to me, is as close to being “with nature” as it gets. I envy those who live in places like Hawaii where it’s warm all year. And I never get tired of bright blue skies and bright green grass and foliage. Oh, and palm trees!

Challenging the “beginning” of the seasons

The seasons are determined by the amount of light or darkness. The tipping points, if you will... the first day of spring is not the vernal equinox, as that is the day of equal light and dark; the first day that has more light than dark is typically February 2nd, or Imbolc, then equinox, May 1st is the first day of Summer, and the Solstice is the height of Summer (longest day) think ... mid summer’s night dream... then the first day of autumn is opposite February 2nd, August 3d Lammas, next is the autumn equinox, half way between equinox and height of winter (longest night), we have October 31 and November 1st, Halloween, day of the dead: official first day of winter.

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