Alternate Seasons

No, I don't mean how when it is winter here, it is summer in Peru. When someone mentions “seasons” (at least here in the northeast US) it is typically understood to be the astronomical calendar, governed by the solstices and equinoxes. Another way of looking at the seasons is the meteorological calendar—same four seasons, but with different (and easy to remember) periods.

One reason for the different record is the ease of record-keeping for climate data. No need to try and remember on what day the relevant solstice or equinox fell, the meteorological seasons start on the first of the appropriate month, and last for 3 months. Therefore, this year spring began on March 1st rather than March 20th (which I had to look up; who actually knows those dates off the top of one’s head?). Summer begins June 1st; autumn, the first of September; and winter begins December 1st. And no, I am not looking up the corresponding dates for the astronomical calendar, just to make that point.

The temperatures at the beginning and end of meteorological seasons also tend to conform to seasonal expectations. Since we are winding up winter, let’s consider that season. Typically we start to experience winter chills around the start of December, so it makes more sense to start the season December 1 as opposed to the 20-something. Then think too of the reverse and hot summer days—plenty of those well before June 20-something!

The 4 season model is typical for the middle latitudes. The tropics tend to have only 2 seasons - “wet” which corresponds to monsoon or hurricane season, and “dry.” The Hindu, Bengali, and Tamil calendars have 6 seasons, all approximately similar times, with some overlap between them. While all three have summer and monsoon seasons, they differ on whether another season is early, late, or just its name – for example, early, late or simply autumn.

There is also the non-weather seasons, like Oscar season, hockey season, duck or rabbit season, etc. What’s your favorite season? Let us know in the comments section!

A few books for younger readers on the topic:

Seasons by Sally Morgan

Seasons on the Farm by Jane Miller

I Wonder Why the Sun Rises and Other Questions About Time and Seasons by Brenda Walpole

Some useful sites consulted for this are:

"Meteorological Versus Astronomical Seasons" - NOAA

"Seasons: Meteorological and Astronomical" - Time and Date

"Season" - Wikipedia

- Dennis B., West Windsor Branch

Photo courtesy of Valeria Boltneva


  1. As for my favorite season, it is the liturgical season of advent, which begins the Christian year, and is the time I started waiting for the rival of my first child. When I was younger, it was summer, the first day school was out until the last day school began.

  2. Fall and Spring - Can definitely do without the other two...


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