Why Meteorological Winter and Astronomical Winter are different

Beyond The Forecast

(WFRV) – Meteorological winter officially begins December 1 marking the beginning of the season in Northeast Wisconsin. Most of your calendars don’t have the official start to winter until December 21. What is the difference between these starts to winter? 

Seasons, in general, are based off the tilt of the Earth and the orbit around the sun. And, there are two different ways to keep track of the seasons: meteorological and astronomical. 

Let’s look at the months through the entire calendar year. Meteorological seasons are grouped into sets of 3 months which follows the calendar and annual temperature cycle. The seasons start at the beginning of December, March, June, and September.  

Astronomical seasons begin on the solstices and equinoxes which can vary by exact date. 

What’s the point of meteorological seasons? 

Well, they make keeping seasonal statistics easier. This is because the dates of the seasons are more consistent than solstices and equinoxes. Although astronomical seasons are the ones you see on the calendar, our winter outlooks are based off Meteorological Winter. The official NOAA forecast for Northeast Wisconsin is calling for above-average snowfall and slightly above average temperatures.

The 3 snowiest and coldest months of the year in Northeast Wisconsin come in December, January, and February. This shows us why it is important to use Meteorological Seasons to count the whole month of December in our seasonal stats.

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