Spring Equinox 2018: The First Day of Spring

March Equinox Date | Vernal Equinox

Welcome Spring Equinox

The spring equinox (also called the March equinox or vernal equinox) falls on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, at 12:15 P.M. EDT. This event marks the astronomical first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Enjoy our spring equinox facts, folklore, photos, and more!

When is the First Day of Spring?

The spring equinox always occurs on March 19, 20, or 21. 

Year Spring Equinox (Northern Hemisphere)
2018 Tuesday, March 20, at 12:15 P.M. EDT
2019 Wednesday, March 20, at 5:58 P.M. EDT
2020 Friday, March 19, at 11:50 P.M. EDT

What Does the March Equinox Mean?

The word equinox comes from Latin words which literally means “equal night”—aequus (equal) and nox (night). 

On the equinox, the length of day and night is nearly equal in all parts of the world. 

With the equinox, enjoy the increasing sunlight hours, with earlier dawns and later sunsets. See your personalized Sun rise and set calculator.

equinox_full_width.png
Image: On the equinox, Earth’s two hemispheres are receiving the Sun’s rays about equally. 

What Happens at the March Equinox?

On the March Equinox, the Sun crosses the celestial equator from south to north. It’s called the “celestial equator”  because it’s an imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator.

If you were standing on the equator, the Sun would pass directly overhead on its way north. 

Equinoxes are the only two times a year that Sun only rises due east and sets due west for all of us on Earth!

While the Sun passes overhead, the tilt of the Earth is zero relative to the Sun, which means that Earth’s axis neither points toward nor away from the Sun. (Note, however, that the Earth never orbits upright, but is always tilted on its axis by about 23.5 degrees.)

After the Spring equinox, the Norther Hemisphere tilts toward the Sun, which is why we start to get longer, sunnier days

Read more about the reason for the seasons.

Crocus field spring
Crocuses are a sure sign of Spring!

Spring Equinox FAQs

Q: Is The First Day of Spring Always March 20?

A: No, it’s not always March 20. And your answer also depends on your definition of the “first day of spring.”  Both are accurate; they’re just a different perspective. We’ll explain …

Astronomically speaking, the first day of spring is marked by the spring equinox, which falls on March 19, 20, or 21 every year. The equinox happens at the same moment worldwide, though our clock times reflect a different time zone. And, as mentioned above, this date only signals spring’s beginning in the Northern Hemisphere; it announces fall’s arrival in the Southern Hemisphere.

Interestingly, due to time zone differences, there isn’t a March 21 equinox in mainland U.S. during the entire 21st century! Plus, we won’t see a March 21 in the world again until 2101.

Meteorologically speaking, the official first day of spring is March 1 (and the last is May 31). Weather scientists divide the year into quarters to make it easier to compare seasonal and monthly statistics from one year to the next. The meteorological seasons are based on annual temperature cycles rather than on the position of Earth in relation to the Sun, and they more closely follow the Gregorian calendar. Using the dates of the astronomical equinoxes and solstices for the seasons would present a statistical problem, as these dates can vary slightly each year.

Daffodils
Did you know that daffodils are one of March’s Birth Flowers?

Q: Are Day and Night Equal on the Equinox?

A: Close. In reality, day and night are not exactly equal at the equinox for two reasons: First, daytime begins the moment any part of the Sun is over the horizon, and it is not over until the last part of the Sun has set. If the Sun were to shrink to a starlike point and we lived in a world without air, the spring and fall equinoxes would truly have ‘equal nights.’

Read about more fun facts in the Almanac Astronomer’s post, “March Equinox Oddities.”

Q: According to folklore, you can stand a raw egg on end on the equinox. Is this true?

A: Folklore or not, this egg trick sounded like fun to us. One spring, a few minutes before the vernal equinox, several Almanac editors tried this trick. For a full workday, 17 out of 24 eggs stood standing. Three days later, we tried this trick again and found similar results. Perhaps 3 days after the equinox was still too near. Perhaps the equinox has nothing to do with it. Perhaps we just don’t like to take ourselves too seriously! Try this yourself and let us know what happens.

Spring bird bath

Q: Which Day Has the Most Sunlight in North America?

A:  The Summer or June Solstice is called the “longest” day of the year!  The date varies between June 20 and June 22, depending on the year, and the local time zone. By “longest day,” we mean the day that gets the most daylight (versus darkness).  See our Summer Solstice page.

How Do You Celebrate the Vernal Equinox?

The vernal equinox signals new beginnings and nature’s renewal in the Northern Hemisphere! Many cultures celebrate spring festivals, like Easter and Passover.

Observe nature around you!

  • Worms begin to emerge from the earth. In fact, the March Full Moon is called “The Full Worm Moon” for this reason.
  • Notice the arc of the Sun across the sky as it shifts toward the north. Birds are migrating northward, along with the path of the Sun.
  • Speaking of birds, did you know that the increasing sunlight is what triggers birds to sing? Cool, eh? Enjoy our Bird Songs page.
  • Trees, shrubs, and flowers are sensitive to temperature and day-length, too! Since ancient days, people have used them as indicators of when the weather is right for planting. For example: Blooming crocus are your cue to plant radishes, parsnips, and spinach. See more of nature’s signs.
  • Of course, the longer days bring warmer weather! Both we and the animals around us strip off our clothes and heavy coats!
  • Ready, set, plant! March is time to start gardens and sow seeds in many regions. See the Best Planting Dates according to your local frost dates.

The Snake of Sunlight

Scientific explanation aside, our ancestors were more connected to the Sun than we are today. They observed its pathway across the sky; they tracked how the sunrise, sunset, and day length changed, using the Sun (and Moon) as a clock and calendar.

There are many ancient sites that mark the equinoxes (and solstices). One of the most famous ancient Spring equinox celebrations was at Chichen Itza in Mexico. The Mayans built a huge pyramid around the year A.D. 1000.  The play of the Sun’s light on it signals the beginning of the seasons. On the spring equinox, it looks like a huge snake is slithering down the steps. Mayans called this day “the return of the Sun serpent.”

chichen-itza_full_width_0.jpg

See more examples of ancient seasonal markers.

Spring Verse

  • One swallow does not make a spring.
  • Bluebirds are a sign of spring; warm weather and gentle south breezes they bring.
  • In spring, no one thinks of the snow that fell last year.
  • Don’t say that spring has come until you can put your foot on nine daisies.
  • Spring-time sweet!
    The whole Earth smiles, thy coming to greet. 

Learn More About the First Days of Seasons

The First Days of the Seasons are marked by four astronomical events:

Look around! Observe! What are the signs of spring in your region? Please share in the comments below!

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

It is actually the moon's

It is actually the moon's gravity which creates the tides.

The moon and the Sun

The moon and the Sun

The actual tidal influence of

The actual tidal influence of the sun is 44% of that of the Moon.

Both the moon and the sun

Both the moon and the sun affect gravity

Excuse me, but every 6th

Excuse me, but every 6th grade student learns it is the MOON's gravity that influences the tides.

SEVENTH GRADERS learn that

SEVENTH GRADERS learn that tides are influenced by both the sun and the moon.

Earth is round like an orange

Earth is round like an orange

The earth is elliptical

I was told in Astronomy that because of opposing magnetic forces within the earth's core in conjunction with the gravitational pull of the earth and sun, the earth has an elliptical shape. It is not a perfect circle like an orange.

I don't believe that

I don't believe that textbooks are the holy grail of truthful information.

Eggs are a lot like people,

Eggs are a lot like people, they are unbalanced.

When I was in grade school I

When I was in grade school I completed a science project based on a similar egg experiment. Since I've been an adult, I have tried it several other times; the reasoning, I don't know but it does have something to do with the earth's placement and possibly the distribution of gravitational pull that occurs during the spring equinox time frame. I have not given it much scientific thought or planning; I just know that the egg experiment has consistently failed when it has been tried outside of a certain time-frame of the equinox pattern. It has also consistently worked when practiced within a few days of the spring equinox. In grade school, we were taught that it worked for the same reasons that the original person who posted this comment explained.

I live near Memphis, TN and

I live near Memphis, TN and personally to me, my seasons are: Spring, Summer, Fall and "Almost Spring" !! I try not to even acknowledge winter (although I really do enjoy the Thanksgiving to Christmas season). Spring to me is the most magical time of the year!! I look forward to getting out and gardening, I love the smells in the air and all the Spring colors in the flowers and trees; everything seems to be alive and reborn. But mostly I look forward to the return of my Purple Martin colony and the blooming of the Cherry tree orchards; it's all just so enchanting!! Happy Spring everyone. :D

Your not the only one out

Your not the only one out there and these people are not anything like that but how would I know that I don't I just assume it. But you will know me sooner or later and you will testify about me and what I'm like this whole world will. I guarantee that this day on forth. Haha!!!!

I hate winter in the

I hate winter in the springtime.
I hate winter in the fall.
I hate winter in the summer but,
I hate winter in the winter most of all!

I hate summer in the

I hate summer in the springtime.
I hate summer in the fall.
I am okay with summer in the summer but,
I hate summer in the winter most of all!

Couldn't resist :-) Winter will end, snow will melt and you'll enjoy the waters and the new green. Living in the drought stricken So Calif. 2015 is our 4th year without seasonal rain and temps. Just the hot sun and dryness each day ... by 'summer' we'll be brown again and then our only season - the fire season - will start and the firemen will have to figure out what to use to put them out.

Cool

Cool

Wow... Checked this website

Wow... Checked this website to see time the vernal equinox occurs... I'm so happy 'spring' has arrived for the northern hemisphere. Reading through these comments makes me think we've all been batted down by this past winter... Lots of owly comments here! Happy spring peeps!

Agree with that! What ever

Agree with that! What ever happened to civility and politeness? Let's all be happy, for one day at least, and pleasant!

Ha I am surprised to find

Ha I am surprised to find myself reading your comments on this beautiful day! Many have shared some insightful facts about the vernal equinox, and others have how do
you say, frankly, or without consideration argued over specific verbage. Thank you however i have one question on my mind... where is the darn plane?!!!

It was abducted by aliens !!

It was abducted by aliens !!

This is a bunch of BS, come

This is a bunch of BS, come around this area and you'll see it's still snowing and the temperature is still below the freezing mark. These people who talk about global warming, have s--t for brains.

So you don't believe it's

So you don't believe it's Spring because it's snowing? Who said it doesn't snow in the Spring? It snows in the Autumn, too. We had almost no snow here in PA for the last two years and then got hit hard. It's called "The Law of Averages".

Common mistake out there:

Common mistake out there: confusing weather, which has major short term fluctuations, with climate, which is about long term trends. Climate change is well established, with overwhelming support in the scientific community. A warming climate does not mean that there won't continue to be variability in weather. In fact, a warming atmosphere can be accompanied by greater swings.

The other common mistake is

The other common mistake is attributing climate change, which is a well- documented phenomenon, to man-made causes, which isn't.

Where do you think all the

Where do you think all the CO2 is coming from, Frosty? It's not just the cows.

I couldn't agree more! I mean

I couldn't agree more! I mean all these scientists all along have been saying that it's going to cause radical weather changes...and so what if the planet is warmer overall than it's ever been and that Australia just had the hottest summer on record? And really it's a big planet and all, but if it's still snowing where YOU are then that's all that the whole world should be looking at, right? Because YOU are the most important opinion and person we have - true dat! The polar ice caps melting mean nothing if it's still icy in Alabama, right? Right??

Wow, how do you explain that

Wow, how do you explain that the C02 levels are at the highest levels since records have been kept? Extreme fluctuation is all part of the big picture. Ice in Alabama has nothing to do with global warming, in reality it gives the argument more validity.

Records haven't been kept

Records haven't been kept long enough to be able to give an accurate judgement as to far as climate change and atmospheric composition go. The best records of these changes we have are at archaeological digs that aren't given priority because they aren't a new flashy kind of science. In order to better understand the future possibilities we must understand the past thoroughly.

I used to feel similarly, but

I used to feel similarly, but time and knowledge changed my mind.
The fact is, so-called "global climate change" is nothing more than a political ploy to eliminate individual freedom via statism.
The best data shows the earth's temps have flatlined for the last 15 years

After this winter, with temps

After this winter, with temps averaging 30° below normal since the weekend before thanksgiving, (in Wisconsin) I too made the same comment about global warming. A friend mentioned that the term isn't used much anymore, that our deleterious impact on climate is causing more weather extremes, including tornadoes, draughts, and hurricanes. These extremes are hard to ignore!

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