Scientists Push to Change Timing of Seasons

Check out this article published a few days ago.  Crazy.  Share your thoughts on the poll at the end!

Changing seasons


SANTA FE, NM – Local skiers were festive but disappointed on closing day, a full week earlier than originally planned.  As temperatures in the state capital approached 80 degrees on the first day of April, rivulets of water cascaded into the ski area parking lots. Large patches of bare ground were exposed along with bare skin of skiers and snowboarders who occupied Totamoff’s deck to enjoy the sun and beer.

“When I first came to Santa Fe, it always snowed by Halloween and the ski area always opened by the end of November,” observed Michael Wigley, a local skiing legend.  “Now we are lucky if we have decent snow before Christmas.

Scientists and meteorologists have voiced growing concerns that the winter season is disappearing across much of the northern hemisphere.  Dr. Jeff Masters put it bluntly on his blog, “Mother Nature has fast-forwarded past spring and gone straight to summer over the Midwest.”

Now a group of scientists who see this trend as unstoppable have proposed changing the way we define seasons.  Mark Boslough, a New Mexico physicist, explained, “We have chosen to define seasons in a very arbitrary way.  Seasons are an artifact of human creation and it’s time for an update.”  Boslough pointed out that astronomy went through a similar controversial redefinition in 2006, when the International Astronomical Union redefined the meaning of the word “planet” and removed Pluto from the list.

He and some of his colleagues are calling for an Intergovernmental Panel on Season Reform charged with renaming the seasons to reflect changes that are shortening ski seasons, and adjusting the calendar appropriately.  The last time this happened was when the Gregorian Calendar was adopted in 1582 to correct for a drift in seasons due to a phenomenon that scientists call “precession”.  The fix was to add a leap year every four years.  But now, according to some scientists, there is a “leap year drift” which caused this year’s spring to start on the earliest date since 1896.  As one scientist put it, “March 31 is the new April 1.”

Season reform campaigners openly acknowledge that such changes will not be without controversy.  They have argued that seasons were never defined properly in the first place.  According to some scientists, seasons are controlled by the tilt of the Earth’s axis, which exposes the hemispheres to different amounts sunlight at different times of the year.

While the axis-tilt theory represents the consensus among many scientists, not everyone agrees. “Campaigners… state or imply that there is a scientific consensus on all of these things, when in fact there is none,” according to the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. Monckton debated Boslough at a recent climate conference in Santa Fe.  Others dispute the claim that this is a particularly warm spring, pointing out that last night’s low in Santa Fe was only 38 degrees.  “The average high in Santa Fe in January is 43 degrees, so it’s actually getting colder this spring,” remarked one skeptic.

There is general agreement among season reformers that the vernal equinox should be the midpoint of spring, not the first day as currently defined.  If this change is made, spring would always start on February 2nd, regardless of whether or not the groundhog sees his shadow.

Areas of disagreement center on the names of the seasons themselves.  Many scientists want to adopt the old Latin names to make a clean break from the current system and avoid confusion. Some want the names to better reflect the warming climate (one suggested that winter be renamed “wimper”).  Others have suggested getting rid of the name “winter” altogether and going directly from autumn to spring, while re-naming the two warm seasons “first summer” and “second summer” to compensate.

But the naming of the seasons was not a topic of conversation at the ski resort. Wigley summed up the debate succinctly, “January, February, Arbitrary… I don’t give a damn what they call the months or seasons. I just want to ski”

In case you haven’t figured it out (solidarity!), both are right.  “Unbelievable” because, duh, it’s not true.  And “Sidsel is an idiot” because I. Fell. For. It.  And that’s why we shall now refer to this as the “Easter week self-flagellation post.” 

Just to get them out of the way, here are my excuses:

1. I read it on three hours of sleep (which is still the case, meaning I may deeply regret this post in the morning)

2. I was catching up on several days of email and did not notice the date.

3. When I got to the third paragraph I started skimming heavily (see above).

4. I’m from the snow belt and 80 degrees in March has ALWAYS seemed wrong to me.

5. I do a lot of reading about climate change and everything true is starting to seem far-fetched (so why not the other way around?)

All that said, the truth is  that I simply seem to embody an improbable mix of cynicism (not in evidence today) and gullibility (hello).  So here are the lessons I’m taking from this:

1. Stay vigilant! Once again, Mark Boslough (the author, an actual climate scientist and known prankster) keeping us on our toes.

2. A deeper understanding of climate change skepticism.  How easy it is to skim through some names with titles, random numbers, and unfamiliar words and believe there is substance! 

3. Trust your instincts.  What really should have clued me in was the last line: “January, February, Arbitrary…”  After a decade of doing person-on-the-street interviews I KNOW nobody is ever that clever on command. (update: Mark Boslough now tells me that quote was actually one of the authentic parts of the story.  Sheesh.)

4. Self-flagellation does ease embarrassment.  Ahh. But you know what?  I’m hanging on to some of this gullibility, because how unhappy life would be without it!

P.S. Honestly, if you want to see some far-out, but true climate change information,  this site is the best I’ve found.


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