Today is the vernal equinox, the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It also marks the end of "the winter that wasn't," as the past several months in North America have been dubbed. It was the fourth-warmest winter in the United States since record-keeping began 117 years ago. In accord with the unusual weather, this turn of the season brings us snow in Arizona and Saudi Arabia, while conditions remain sunny and warm in America's Northeast and Western Europe. Collected here are scenes from around the world as a strange winter gives way to spring.
A woman takes in the sun as she listens to her headphones while sitting in Bryant Park in New York, on March 14, 2012. High temperature records have been shattered this week from Florida to the U.S.-Canada border, with the variance from normal highs most pronounced in the Northern Plains, where recent temperatures in the 60s were as much as 30 degrees above normal.
Rapeseed plants in full bloom and ready for harvest in the farms in Luoping, in China's Yunnan province, on March 15, 2012. The expansion of China's rapeseed crushing capacity coupled with a lower domestic harvest will lead China to boost imports of the oilseed in 2012, particularly from Canada, the world's top exporter, traders said.
Rose Houk cross-country skis through Thorpe Park as several inches of snow cover the ground in Flagstaff, Arizona March 19, 2012. The late winter storm kept temperatures well below normal in California on Sunday and generated heavy snowfall in several states, including Arizona, where several highways in the northern part of the state were temporarily closed, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
An Iranian woman jumps over a bonfire, in the Pardisan Park in Tehran, Iran, on March 13, 2012, during Chaharshanbe Souri, or Wednesday Feast, an ancient Festival of Fire on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year. Iranians jump over burning bonfires while throwing firecrackers, celebrating the arrival of spring which coincides with Iranian new year, or Nowruz. The festival came from the pre-Islamic Zoroastrianism era, and has been discouraged by conservative Islamist rulers since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, without much success.
(AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
The Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, during a snow storm in Jerusalem, on March 2, 2012. Local media reported this was the first time in four years that snow had fallen in Jerusalem, causing schools to close for the day.
A visitor meditates after sunrise at the megalithic Mnajdra Temple during the vernal equinox, which marks the first day of spring, outside Valletta, Malta, on March 20, 2012. The temple, which is covered by a protective tent, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is believed to date back to around 3,600 B.C.
(Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi)
A Japanese samba dancer walks carefully in the snow after performing to commemorate the opening of a temporary local shopping complex at Shizugawa district in Minamisanriku town, northern Japan, on February 25, 2012. Small merchants that were affected by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami were resuming their businesses in prefabricated buildings.
The statue of Civil War veteran General Winfield Scott Hancock is seen trough cherry blossoms at Scott circle in Washington, D.C., on March 17, 2012. The iconic trees are beginning to bloom, with the National Park Service forecasting peak bloom between March 20 and 23, one of the earliest years on record due to warmer than average temperatures.
(Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)
Effigies burn during the finale of the Fallas festival, which welcomes Spring and honors Saint Joseph's Day, in Valencia, Spain, in the early hours of March 20, 2012. Fallas are giant elaborate sculptures and effigies made of wood and plastic that are burned at the end of a week-long spectacle of processions, fireworks, music and dancing.
Chris Melohusky catches a steelhead trout in Buffalo Creek during the warm winter weather in Elma, New York, on March 13, 2012. The scant snowfall this winter will continue to affect Northeast waterways this spring as the feeble snowpack melts away. Not only was this the fourth-warmest winter on record in the 48 contiguous states, but it was drier than average too. The Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University reports below-average snow cover this winter at tracking stations from Maine to West Virginia.
(AP Photo/David Duprey)