Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Winter Question for You

We are a little more than a week into November and there have already been many signs of winter in the U.S.  Although the winter solstice is still six weeks away (December 21st at 5:12 a.m. CST), meteorologists and many of us have our own "definition" of when winter starts. It's something I've personally been interested in for some time, and now I am working on a project that requires us to "define" winter. Your answers might help us shape some of this research

This question is open to all - those in warmer climates where winter is the season that isn't spring and summer, and those colder climates where winters can be brutal at times.

So, what defines the start of winter for you?

Post your responses here (preferred), or you can email me at would be very helpful if you would tell us what state you are from.  After a period of time I will compile the results and present them in a future blog post along with a scientific perspective on the seasons.  I think the results will be very interesting.

I look forward to hearing from you!


  1. I live in Wisconsin. I see winter as starting on December 1. I think it's a combination of the colder weather, the possibility of snow at any time + the Christmas/Advent season.

  2. Anytime after Thanksgiving, although, looking out my window here in New Jersey this morning, I cold be wrong about that.

  3. I'm in SE Michigan & I think winter "starts" after Thanksgiving.

    I think it has to do with decorating. At Thanksgiving, we still have scarecrows & fall leaves & Indian corn, etc up. After that, the Christmas decorations come out.

  4. I live in Northwest Washington. For me winter starts when the clouds, rain, and winds return. That's usually in early November. My wife, the gardener, defines it as the first killing frost. Around here that's typically at the end of November.

  5. Is when we have the First 1 or more inches of Snow on the ground in my area.

  6. I live in Maine. Winter starts for me when all the leaves are off the trees and you have to scrape your windshield every morning.

  7. I live in North Carolina. Winter to me starts when the daily high temperatures are below 50 degrees. So, some years this is early November and sometimes it is mid-December.

  8. I live in central Washington. For me it has nothing to do with the weather but with the time change. When it is dark before you come home from work, it is winter.

  9. For many Kentuckians it's simple: Winter begins on College Basketball Tip-Off Day, and ends with March Madness.

    Having disposed of that obvious definition, I have felt for many years that the 'seasons' at 38° -84° are advanced about 6-8 weeks in terms of local climate, vrs. the arbitrary astronomical definitions. Noting that Scandinavia and many other European countries advance a similar proposition, I would tend toward some compromising span, such as November 10 - February 10, for Kentucky, if I wanted an arbitrary dating based on "four" "90 day" seasons.

    My evapotranspiration "seasons" might run about: March 1st to November 1st (with proactive early and late season anti-freeze 'time-outs'). The "ETO seasons" (pending further observations) might be divided into 3 seasons: low, high, moderate.

    Noting that the meteorlogical water year extends October 1 - September 30, (and would begin during my 'moderate' ETO season), for our discussion I might 'arbitrarily' define the local "Water Year Seasons" as:

    Winter: November 1 - February 28 (29) - (Yeah, that's a 4 month winter)
    Spring: March 1 - May 31
    Summer: June 1 - August 31
    Fall: September 1 - October 30 (Call it: 'ShortFall' )

    By November 1st, we've had our first frost, and (except for a few stubborn Oaks and similar) most of the hardwoods are pretty much bare. The Mockingbirds have begun their winter-long defense of the Holly Berries until they are ripened in February (when the Robins come in as a flock and steal them, without so much as a thank-you).

    ...and November 1st is darned close to College Basketball Tip-Off day.


  10. Here in the central Coast Range of Oregon, winter starts with the first rainstorm big enough to bring the salmon up to spawn - 3" of rain at least. late October - Early November.

  11. I live in the central Coast Range of Oregon (like Meow Blah III). I consider winter to begin between the first major rain (that moves the salmon up the river) and the end of the leaf-falling time. For native trees, that time is about now. So: mid-October through mid-November.

  12. Winter doesn't begin until the leaves have all fallen, there is no useful produce left in the garden, the house needs heat every day, and it is raining more days than not. Usually that is after Thanksgiving, and before Dec 5.

  13. When I lived in Anchorage, AK, it was when snow consistently covered the ground in town. Since moving to the KC area, once the avg temperatures or wind chill consistently stay near or below freezing, especially after the first measurable snowfall.

  14. I live in Colorado. I've always believed that the solstices and equinoxes should mark the middle of each of the seasons'. Therefore, the beginning of winter would be sometime around Nov. 5th and last until Feb. 6th or so.

  15. I live in Colorado. Winter is for real when there is a 3-foot base at the major ski areas.

  16. I live in SW Michigan

    I have found that you can use the calendar and be very close.
    In stead of the Solstice being the beginning of the season. I use them as the middle of the season. So if you figure out the dates from there, it looks like this.

    Nov 6, 1st day of winter.
    Dec 21, solstice - mid winter

    Feb 4, 1st day of spring
    Mar 20, equinox - mid spring

    May 5, 1st day of summer
    June 20, solstice - mid summer

    Aug 6, 1st day of fall
    Sept 22, equinox - mid fall

    I have found this correlates very well with the weather. For example using Nov 6th as the 1st day of winter, the leaves are off the trees, the garden is done, we have had the killing frost, and it can snow at any time.

  17. Here in Mississippi on 11-13, it is still fall - leaves still on the trees. After a cold front went through yesterday we had frost this morning in the wide open areas only - but will start warming up again to delightful fall temps. For me, winter starts around Jan. 1. After Christmas it begins to be "steady cold" sometimes rainy and more dreary. May is a transition month as it begins to get hot and more unbearable after the "cool" spring. Summer hits full force June 1 and continues into September. We long for a cooling front in September for relief!

  18. I think I used to have a stronger sense of the seasons than I do now, I may be looking and more things and a larger area than I used to. Here's all the seasons from my current perspective in New Hampshire:

    Winter: When there's a couple inches of snow on the ground or ponds freeze over. I don't get into a Christmas shopping mood until that happens, which can be a problem!

    Spring: Crocuses and daffodils bloom. (4 or 5 months later.)

    Summer: first 80+ when I'm working out side and my body discovers cooling is more important than warming. (Way too soon - New England springs are short.)

    Fall: When enough foliage has changed to make a hillside worth a second look.