What does Spring Arrive? (According to ChatGPT)

A vivid landscape depicting the transition from winter to spring in Canada. The left side of the image shows a snowy environment with lingering snowflakes and the Rocky Mountains, representing winter. The right side bursts with the colors of spring, featuring blooming flowers, budding trees, and Niagara Falls, under a clear, sunny sky. At the center, the Earth is symbolically positioned relative to the Sun to indicate the vernal equinox, illustrating the astronomical perspective of spring's arrival. This composition harmoniously integrates meteorological, astronomical, and geographical perspectives on the onset of spring in Canada.

I love ChatGPT. I pretty much use it all the time now instead of Google. So when I turned to it to ask the simple question “When does spring arrive?”, I was met with this overly complex response:

Spring’s arrival depends on the context in which you’re asking—whether it’s meteorological, astronomical, or varies by geographic location. Let’s break it down:

  1. Meteorological Spring:
  • In meteorology, seasons are divided into three-month blocks based on the annual temperature cycle. This makes data collection and comparison more systematic.
  • Meteorological spring begins on March 1 and ends on May 31.
  1. Astronomical Spring:
  • Astronomical seasons are based on the position of Earth in relation to the Sun. This is marked by equinoxes and solstices.
  • Astronomical spring begins with the vernal equinox, which varies each year but generally falls on March 19, 20, or 21 in the Northern Hemisphere. It ends with the summer solstice, around June 20 or 21.
  • In the Southern Hemisphere, these dates are reversed. Astronomical spring begins around September 22 and ends around December 21.
  1. Geographic Variation:
  • The exact timing of spring can vary significantly depending on one’s geographical location. Regions closer to the equator experience less distinction between seasons, while higher latitudes and specific climates can see more pronounced seasonal changes.
  • Some cultures and regions might have different definitions based on local climate, ecological factors, or traditional calendars.

Understanding these distinctions helps in appreciating the complexity behind what might seem like a straightforward question. Depending on the context, spring can be viewed through different lenses, each offering its unique perspective on the transition from winter to summer.

Hmm, not what I was hoping for. Asking it for when spring starts in Canada, or even just Ontario was no better.. Okay, back to Google., which gave me this as the first link:


This confirmed what I sort of remembered from school, which is “spring starts at the moment when the sun is directly over the equator, going from south to north: the ‘vernal equinox’“. But it also included this important table:

This image shows a chart titled "The times in this table are Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)" and lists the specific dates and times for the beginning of spring, summer, autumn, and winter from the years 2011 to 2030. The year 2024 is highlighted in yellow, and the dates and times for the four seasons are March 20 at 03:06, June 20 at 20:50, September 22 at 12:43, and December 21 at 09:20, respectively. The rows for the years 2011, 2012, 2022, and 2023 have a black and gray patterned border underneath them, possibly indicating that rows have been deleted for brevity. The chart is presented in a clear, tabulated format with columns for each season and rows for each year.

Okay, we’re getting closer to an answer: March 20 at 3:06 a.m. UTC. Luckily the website also gives us this table:

The image is a table providing information on how to convert Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to Canadian local times by subtracting hours for various time zones. The header reads "For Canadian time, subtract the following hours from UTC." It has two rows: "Standard" and "Daylight," corresponding to standard time and daylight saving time adjustments. The time zones listed are Pacific, Mountain, Central, Eastern (highlighted in yellow), Atlantic, and Newfoundland.

For standard time, the hours to subtract are:
- Pacific: 8
- Mountain: 7
- Central: 6
- Eastern: 5
- Atlantic: 4
- Newfoundland: 3.5

For daylight saving time, the hours to subtract are:
- Pacific: 7
- Mountain: 6
- Central: 5
- Eastern: 4
- Atlantic: 3
- Newfoundland: 2.5

The asterisks indicate notes at the bottom:
- A single asterisk (*) states "Yukon observes Mountain Standard Time year-round."
- A double asterisk (**) states "Saskatchewan observes Central Standard Time year-round."

The use of asterisks in the table corresponds to the notes, indicating exceptions in the Mountain and Central time zones for Yukon and Saskatchewan, respectively.

Popping over to https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/timezone/utc confirmed for me that we are currently 4 hours behind UTC, which means spring officially arrive tomorrow, March 19, at 11:06 p.m.

Why couldn’t ChatGPT tell me that?

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