Start of Spring: East wind melts ice

August 12th, 2012
by Jo Law

Yes, it is spring, according to the Chinese Almanac. The almanac uses astronomical calculations to reckon the seasons, where four positions of the sun on the ecliptic serve as reference points. These quarter points, as they are known, are the solstices and equinoxes. On the solstices, the sun observed from Earth to be directly overhead at the tropics (of Capricorn 23° 26′ 16″S or Cancer 23° 26′ 16″N). At these points, the sun ‘stands still’, it will go no further but instead ‘reverses’ direction. Allowing for a delay in the heating and cooling of earth’s air temperature (known as ‘season lag’), the almanac places the start of seasons at the mid-points between solstices and equinoxes

With the solstices and equinoxes marking the middle of the seasons, the experience of each period becomes more transitory. In comparison with the method of using meteorological data as determinants for seasons (for example, designating the coldest three months as winter and hottest three months as summer), astronomical reckoning is more anticipatory than definitive when considering ‘seasonal weather’. In the latter, a spring day can be a cold day (and frequently is).

In this pentad when ‘east wind melts the ice’ strong gusty wind swept from the south reminding us that the seasonal ‘August wind’ will once again return. Soon the sun will pass the same point on the ecliptic when the Illustrated Almanac began. Or more accurately, at the close of this project we would have made a complete revolution around our star having travelled some 940 million km from our starting point.

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