Spring officially arrived in Minnesota at 1:35 a.m. today, celebrating the triumph of the sun over darkness, and the survival of life through the winter.
''There's a reason that many religions have holidays clustered around the vernal equinox,'' said Jim Fisher, an anthropologist at Carleton College in Northfield. ''The theme of rebirth, of emergence from darkness -- well, you find it in Easter and in many cultures where the seasonal changes are profound.''
On the vernal equinox, the sun casts the same amount of sunlight on the northern and southern hemispheres, then starts brightening our northern half.
The morning sunlight in drivers' eyes the past few weeks is a clue about how things are changing. Today the sun will be up for 12 hours and 11 minutes -- a full hour longer than on March 1. But there's plenty of daylight still to come. By the time summer officially starts June 20, there will be 15 hours and 37 minutes of daylight in the Twin Cities area, and a bit more to the north.
This could be the start of a painful growing season for some farmers, especially in southwestern Minnesota, state climatologist Mark Seeley said.
''The new long-range outlook is for hotter and drier than normal in the southern half of the state, with even more intense weather in the southern and central plains, and the eastern Corn Belt,'' he said. ''That's bad for the major ag states south of us already suffering drought.''
The unusually mild winter and early onset of springlike weather already has tempted some farmers to start planting crops far too soon, Seeley said. Some planting of oats and wheat already has begun in western Minnesota.
''This year, I think our job is to try to pull the reins back, keep the brakes on. Most farmers probably shouldn't out there until at least mid-April,'' he said.
Gardeners, too, should hold back on most yard and garden work. The only yard work should be light raking of dry yards and pruning oaks and other deciduous trees. It's OK to poke around in the mulch to see how bulbs and early flowers are doing, but don't uncover them until the frost danger is well past.
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