Sunday, February 22, 2004
Every year, there arrives a day when you can sense that winter's back has been broken. I think Sunday was that day.
I observed some clear signs of spring Sunday, which I intend to share with you later.
It doesn't mean it won't snow again this spring. Most assuredly, it will. And that's a good thing. In fact, the balance of this week is expected to be snowy with highs in the 30s. However, now that the pace of the lengthening of each day has quickened, spring is inexorably gaining ground, while winter is bitterly giving up, inch by inch.
Each day this week, the length of daylight hours will increase by more than a minute each morning and evening. It doesn't sound like a lot, but it is already noticeable. The daily increments will add up until St. Patrick's Day and beyond, when apres ski rituals can be observed on south facing decks all over Steamboat.
Spring won't arrive officially until March 21, on the Vernal Equinox, the day the sun "passes over" the equator and people throughout North America will experience nearly equal periods of daylight and darkness. And that's what these lengthening days are all about. The Northern Hemisphere has begun to tilt back toward the sun, exposing the North American continent to ever increasing periods of light.
You might be curious to know that folks in Durango enjoyed more daylight on Sunday than we did in Steamboat. Although the period of daylight will be longer in both Colorado cities today, Steamboat's will grow by a greater increment than that of Durango.
The sun was above the horizon in Durango for 11 hours and 5 minutes Sunday, compared to 10 hours and 58 minutes in Steamboat. Monday's daylight will last 2 minutes 18 seconds longer in Durango, but we'll pick up 2 hours and 35 seconds.
What's up with that?
We all know that the winter day times are exceedingly short near the Arctic Circle. Fairbanks, Alaska, saw its shortest "day" of the year during the Winter Solstice on Dec. 21, when the sun was above the horizon for 3 hours and 42 minutes. Now, it's on its way to the Summer Solstice on June 21, when the period of daylight will be 21 hours and 49 minutes. In between, it will reach the Equinox just as we will in Steamboat. Way up north, in Fairbanks, the days are lengthening more rapidly than they are in Steamboat, and even more rapidly than they are down south in Durango. If they weren't, Alaskans wouldn't show up for the Equinox on time. The sun was above the horizon for just 9 hours and 17 minutes on Sunday in Fairbanks. However, daylight will increase by 6 minutes and 48 seconds there today. Compare the rate of change to the two-plus minutes of change we're experiencing here on the 40th parallel in Colorado. The lengthening days also are being watched closely in Glasgow, Scotland, near the birthplace of golf.
Steamboat will be enjoying more than 11 hours of daylight by March 1, but at the St. Andrews links above the 50th parallel in Scotland, the sun will set at 5:51 p.m. March 1 after just 10 hours and 43 minutes of daylight. By March 15, the sun won't go down until 6:20 p.m. in Glasgow, and with 11 hours and 48 minutes of daylight, the Scots will be catching up to us. Skip ahead to June 15, and the sun won't go down on the 18th green at St. Andrews until 9:04 p.m. after a day that lasted 17 hours and 33 minutes. Think of all of those extra tee times!
Back to those signs of spring. The day is soon approaching when a guy or gal will be able to ski powder on Mount Werner in the morning and catch a fat trout from the Yampa River in the afternoon of the same day. By April, it's not unheard of to ski in the morning and play nine holes at the Steamboat Golf Club in the afternoon.
Even as a stealth storm backed over Mount Werner from the East late Sunday afternoon, there were unmistakable signs of spring to be seen. To begin with, strawberries and asparagus were on sale at the grocery store. And although I didn't spy any robins during a ski outing Sunday afternoon, I received a credible report of an even more reliable sign of the changing seasons.
Dr. Dan Smilkstein was spotted running up Emerald Mountain in a pair of shorts!
Can spring be far off?