Monday, 25 January 2010

spring forward

On Saturday night's edition of QI, Stephen Fry asked what takes eight weeks to travel from the southern-most part of England to the northern-most part of Scotland.

The answer, it turned out, is the spring as it advances north at about a third of a mile an hour. (One of the show's guests, Hugh Dennis, suggested that if you timed your walk correctly daffodils would keep popping up all along the way.)

Spring is traditionally defined in the Northern Hemisphere as the three-month period of March, April, and May. An eight-week difference within a three-month period (just in the UK) is fairly sizeable.

But it's more extreme than that. Fry didn't go on to discuss how the dates for spring have shifted (as season creep leads to earlier springs and longer summers) or how those dates might continue to change.

When Shakespeare writes in Sonnet 98: 'From you have I been absent in the spring ...', modern readers could find themselves imagining a time of year that's two months' adrift from the April mentioned in the poem. Phenologists have observed primroses, snowdrops and frogspawn in the first week of January.

1 comment:

  1. We have a friend, a grammar school teacher in Atlanta, Georgia, who for decades has done a project with his students on the advancement of spring. The class writes to post office directors from the tip of Florida to the top of Maine, and asks them to mail back a postcard with the date of the first sighting of a daffodil. The class follows it all on a map with
    colored pins, etc, and finds the speed of spring on the East Coast. The speed has been clocked at about 25 miles per day.