The Psychology of Spring: The Season of Hope, Warmer Weather

By Mark Leberfinger, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
April 3, 2014; 1:12 AM ET
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The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in Washington, D.C. See larger photo below.

After the long, harsh winter of 2013-14, people are ready for spring.

Winter meant extreme cold, heavy snow and ice for many Americans, especially in the Midwest and the Northeast. The signs of spring are in the air, even though this March has felt like winter for many, AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said.

Spring is a hopeful time for people, Edward F. Mackey, the director of the Mind-Body Institute of Applied Psychophysiology at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, said.

"Spring can signify new beginnings," Mackey said.

Changes actually start after the winter equinox on Dec. 20 as the days get longer and longer, but the one-hour change to Daylight Saving Time helps with the transition to spring.

"One hour to spring ahead, at some subconscious level, may signify moving forward, not stagnant, out front and pulling away,'" Mackey said.

Even more of a psychological boost is the change of temperatures in March and April, two months of the greatest change as far as weather goes.

"Normal temperatures go up the fastest, as much as 12 to 13 degrees in March and April, but it's more noticeable in March," Rayno said.

Detroit's normal high temperature starts at 40 degrees Fahrenheit on March 1 and climbs to 53 F by the end of the month.

New York City's normal high jumps 10 degrees Fahrenheit from March 1 to 31, with an end of the month temperature of 55 F.

This March, however, has been unusually cold, with below-normal temperatures reaching across two-thirds of the U.S. and extending far south into Houston, Rayno said.

The transition to spring may bring on the onset of "spring fever."

"Folks cannot wait to get out of the house after a long winter," Mackey said.

Spring is also a time where sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be lifted up after a long winter.

"SAD is most often associated with decreased sunlight levels as the sun is not high in the sky," Mackey said. As spring arrives, the Earth's tilt is changing and the sun is higher and daylight time gets longer, thus thwarting the SAD effects from too little sunlight."

The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, which will be April 12, 2014, is one of the signature events of the annual festival held in Washington, D.C. (Photo/National Cherry Blossom Festival)

It will be a slower move from winterlike to springlike weather, Rayno said.

"There are signs of spring for the Upper Midwest and the Northeast, but more days are going to be colder than warmer," he said.

It will be warmer in the Plains and Southeast, but that will mean an increase in severe weather chances at a time when severe weather has been at historic lows.

"The cold weather has kept a lid on severe weather," he said.

Eventually "winter will start to get deflated," Rayno said.

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