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Why do We Experience Changes of Season?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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As many of us may have suspected all along, the entire world is indeed tilted at a 23.5 degree angle. For reasons which should become apparent shortly, this tilting of the planet is the main reason we experience changes of season. It also explains why some of the Earth's inhabitants only mark seasonal changes on calendars while others must prepare for a number of extreme weather conditions. The seasons change as a the result of sunlight striking the Earth's surface at different angles as the Earth revolves around the sun.

Because the Earth is tilted on its axis, the north and south poles each spend time pointed towards and away from the sun. The sun's light and heat energy strike the central portion of the planet most directly, which means inhabitants who live along the equatorial region experience almost no changes of season. The weather conditions along the Earth's equator are almost continually hot and windy, with only occasional rains for relief. In those tropical regions, the tilt of the Earth has little to no effect on their seasons.

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In other parts of the world, however, the tilt and relative position of the Earth to the sun have much more profound effects. Surprisingly enough, the distance between the Earth and the sun has little bearing on the changes of season. The Earth is farthest from the sun during the month of July, one of the warmest months in the northern hemisphere. What matters most is the angle of the sun's rays as they reach the planet's surface. When the Earth is tilted away from the sun, the rays strike the northern hemisphere at an angle, which means the heat energy is not as direct. Therefore, the northern and southern hemispheres experience changes of season, with the north experiencing winter and the south experiencing summer.

As the Earth continues to revolve around the sun, the tilt angle is reversed and there is another change of seasons. The seasons known as spring and autumn are transitional phases as the sun's rays become refocused. Many events in nature, such as the appearance of new growth in the spring or the shedding of leaves in autumn, are triggered by the changes in temperature or available daylight as the sun's energy becomes more diffused. The changes of season are also an example of nature's law of conservation at work. The cycle of birth, life, decay and death helps to keep the planet in proper balance, rather than force animals and plants to maintain a constant and exhausting pace of life.

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amypollick
Post 13

@anon350892: Perhaps you live in a different part of the Southeast. I've lived in north Alabama all my life. While some seasons are certainly more extreme than others, I can tell you about summers with 30-40 days over 95 degrees straight, with temps in the single digits the winter of the same year. In this part of the Southeast, we have four defined seasons. Our winters are not as harsh or as long as those, say, in Minnesota, for sure, but there's a definite difference between January and July.

anon350892
Post 12

There are not really any seasons in the Southeast of the US. It just gets slightly cooler throughout winter and that's about it.

sneakers41
Post 4

@GreenWeaver - I know what you mean. I grew up in New Jersey and I remember being in the car when my mother was driving during a snow storm and the ground was frozen.

Our car slid and she really did not have control of the car. It really scared me.

The only thing that is nice about the change of seasons is seeing the leaves turn colors in the fall. I think that the fall is my favorite season because it is not too hot or too cold. I also love wearing sweaters and really look forward to it in the fall.

GreenWeaver
Post 3

@Anon116290 -That is true. I live in Florida and it seems that we only have two seasons Spring and Summer.

While the mild weather in the winter is nice, having about eight months of summer is really boring. I guess I can’t complain because at least it doesn’t snow and I don’t have to worry about driving in the snow. I think that is what would bother me the most if I lived in another state. I don't think it would be fun to have to shovel snow.

anon116290
Post 1

we experience seasons because the earth goes around the sun.

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