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The First Day of Spring

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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. [40 photos]

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The sun sets behind cherry blossoms which have come into full bloom due to the early warm weather in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2012. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
The sun sets behind cherry blossoms which have come into full bloom due to the early warm weather in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2012. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
Palle-Jooseppi, a male brown bear at Ranua Zoo, wakes up after winter hibernation in Ranua, Finland, on February 23, 2012. (Reuters/Kaisa Siren/Lehtikuva) #
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. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton) #
A flower blossoms in front of the Reichstag, the seat of Germany's lower house of parliament, on a sunny spring day in Berlin, on March 16, 2012. (Reuters/Thomas Peter) #
A teenager does somersault on the Neva River ice in central Saint-Petersburg, on March 15, 2012. (Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images) #
A bee collects nectar from a blossom on March 15, 2012 in Gimmeldingen, Germany. (Uwe Anspach/AFP/Getty Images) #
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. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #
Rapeseed plants ready for harvest in Luoping, Yunnan province, China, on March 15, 2012. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #
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. (Reuters/Joshua Lott) #
Several inches of snow cover a bicycle in Flagstaff, Arizona March, on 18, 2012. (Reuters/Joshua Lott) #
A woman sunbathes on a pedal-boat on the Vltava river as unusually warm temperatures hit Prague, Czech Republic, on March 17, 2012. (Reuters/David W Cerny) #
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) #
A woman has her lips smeared with colored powder during a religious spring festival Holi in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, March 18, 2012. Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, is celebrated by people throwing colored powder and water at each other. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin) #
A man removes snow covering his car after a heavy snowstorm in the Aley area of eastern Lebanon, on March 2, 2012. (Reuters/ Mohamed Azakir) #
A Saudi man plays with snow after a heavy snowstorm in the desert, near Tabuk, 1,500 km (932 miles) from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on March 3, 2012. (Reuters/Mohamed Alhwaity) #
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. (Reuters/Amir Cohen) #
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 bird collects nectar as flowers bloom marking the arrival of spring season in Agartala, India, on Monday, March 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Sushanta Das) #
People sunbathe on the Seine river's embankment, in Paris, as temperatures warm up, on March 16, 2012. (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images) #
Canada geese fly over a partially frozen lake in Pembroke, New York, on March 5, 2012. (AP Photo/David Duprey) #
Tourists and Parisians take advantage of warm temperatures in the French capital by relaxing on top of the Montparnasse Tower in Paris, on March 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Francois Mori) #
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. (Reuters/Yuriko Nakao) #
Two of three polar bear cubs born in November of last year play in the snow at the Moscow Zoo, on March 13, 2012. The cubs have only recently been revealed to the public as they have mostly stayed in the seclusion of their den. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) #
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) #
People pose for a photograph as they toast with beer on a sunny day in Munich's "Englischer Garten", on March 16, 2012. (Reuters/Michaela Rehle) #
A model strikes a pose during a fashion shoot with the Grand Palais in the background as unusually warm weather hits Paris, on March 17, 2012. (Reuters/Benoit Tessier) #
A security guard walks along a path after a heavy snowfall overnight in Beijing, on March 18, 2012. (Reuters/David Gray) #
A woman poses for a friend atop a hill overlooking the Forbidden City after a heavy snowfall overnight in Beijing, on March 18, 2012. (Reuters/David Gray) #
A snow-covered tree, after a snowfall at Ritan Park in central Beijing, on March 18, 2012. (Reuters/Jason Lee) #
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. (Reuters/Heino Kalis) #
A boy practices T'ai chi before snow-covered trees in Beijing, on March 18, 2012. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images) #
Artist Janet Frankovic paints a blooming dogwood tree in Sligo Creek Park in Silver Spring, Maryland, on March 15, 2012. (Reuters/Gary Cameron) #
Buddhist monks offer prayers for victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami at Kitaizumi beach in Minamisoma, Fukushima prefecture, on March 10, 2012. (Reuters/Yuriko Nakao) #
Clara Loiter, 3, and her mother Jennifer Frericks, of Washington, blow bubbles under a Yoshino cherry blossom tree at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) #
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) #
On the first day of spring a bumblebee collects pollen from blooming crocuses in the sun at a traffic island in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, on March 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner) #
A juvenile moose is dwarfed by deep snow in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 15, 2012. The state's largest city is 3.3 inches away from breaking its record snowfall of 132.6 inches that was set in the winter of 1954-55. (AP Photo/Rachel D'Oro) #
A participant jumps during the Red Bull Jump and Freeze competition at the ski resort of Gudauri, Georgia some 130 km (81 mi) north of Tbilisi, on March 18, 2012. (Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili) #
The pods on the London Eye tourist attraction cast shadows through a thick morning fog as the spring sunshine begins to burn it off in central London, on March 15, 2012. (Reuters/Andrew Winning) #
People enjoy warm weather in Skopje's city park March 17, 2012 (Reuters/Ognen Teofilovski) #

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