Reprinted with permission from Solaflect’s blog at https://www.solaflect.com/spring-equinox/
On March 20th, the equinox has us thinking warm thoughts about the long, sunny days ahead. For those who like living with a “sense of place,” northern New England has something really special to offer: a spot on the North American continent where the days start getting longer than the nights right as the vernal equinox marks the official turn of winter into the spring.
This wonderful celestial symmetry comes with the territory. We inhabit a place that’s easy to spot on any classroom globe. It’s the 45th parallel, marking the halfway point between the equator and the North Pole of the of the Northern Hemisphere. We colonists of this 45th parallel are much too diverse a group to claim any common heritage. But if we were to take a trip around the globe, staying to our common ground, we could set out from Eastport, Maine, enter Europe at the northern tip of Spain, cross the Alps and then the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, before reaching the Pacific Ocean at snowy Hokkaido, Japan, with final stops in Portland, Oregon, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, along this 17,500-mile, circumpolar journey.
Goldilocks in Reverse
From a weather standpoint, you might say we 45th parallelers live in a “reverse-Goldilocks” environment. While it can get “too hot” or “too cold” on occasion, our weather usually seems to balance out “just right” over four celestial seasons.
Or at least we used to think so. Now a lot of weather observers in our neck of the woods think the weather is falling out of kilter. The “too-cold” temperature rarely gets below zero anymore. The “ice-out” dates on frozen ponds are coming sooner and becoming more unpredictable. More people are planting spring flowers before Memorial Day and getting away with it. Indian Summer is just getting started on Columbus Day, when it used to be winding down; now it can last practically till Thanksgiving. Compared to the climatic stresses that other latitudes are feeling because of global warming, these weather changes are relatively mild — and not entirely bad! Here’s what some 45th Parallel weather observers told the Boston Globe about recent weather changes in our area:
Let the Sun Shine – on Northern New England!
From a solar standpoint, northern New England ain’t so bad, either! When the sun makes its Spring debut this Saturday, it will be halfway through its northerly pass of the Northern Hemisphere, with the longest days of the year starting in the weeks ahead. By the time we max out on daylight hours on the Summer Solstice, June 20, solar power in our neck of the woods will be turning photons into electrons for 15 hours and 15 minutes straight – leaving less than eight hours of darkness before the morning sun starts the process all over again.
So, for those who watch the sun arc over our 45th parallel from afar, we may look like distant castaways at some remote northerly outpost. Yet, we who are the ones truly in the middle of it all, hunkered down in just what might be might be the right place at the right time to weather the coming storm of climate change – and whatever else the whole wide world might throw at us!
45th Parallelers Unite!
And we’re not alone! Here’s how our fellow 45th parallelers at the Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi, in the small town of Cadett, Wisconsin, see our shared place in the world. For these “Middlesotans,” camped out some 1,500 miles inland of here, weather extremes cancel each other out to create one of the most temperate places on earth, and extreme weather is just about as extreme as anything there ever seems to get:
“In an intemperate world, here is the most temperate place in the temperate zone (emphasis added). It is an idealized midpoint between extremes of cold and heat, the center between the Apollonian rationality of the frigid north and the Dionysian turbulence of the torrid zone to the south. This pride in “middleness” may be strongest in the mid-continent regions the 45th traverses, in North America as well as in Europe, where residents seek a cultural midpoint distinct from the dominance of the coastal fringes, and the swings of continental weather are a seasonal reminder of the possibilities of extremes. As with anywhere, homeland pride can inspire both parochial isolation as well as a sympathetic global point of view.”
With spring erupting, let us rejoice in living in the best place at the best latitude on the planet, and enjoy the long, sunny days ahead!
Doug Cogan has lived in the Upper Valley for 33 years and devoted his entire career to finding actionable ways to address climate change. He has written several groundbreaking books on the development of renewable energy, and helped retrofit Plainfield, NH school classrooms with highly efficient heat pumps and helped get solar installed during his time on the Plainfield School Board.
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