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What it is & why meteorologists start the season earlier


Happy fall equinox! On Thursday at 8:04 p.m. local time, the Earth’s axis will be oriented so that no part of the planet is tilted toward or away from the Sun. After that moment, the equinox is over, and those of us here in the Northern Hemisphere start tilting away, heading for the winter solstice. It’s all about Earth’s tilt People often mistakenly believe that Earth’s seasons are caused by a change in our distance from the Sun. In reality, that distance only varies by a small amount throughout the year. Earth’s tilted axis is the true culprit. For the past six months, our half of the planet has been tilted toward the Sun. This gives us more direct sunlight & longer days. Since the summer solstice in June, we’ve started to tilt back the other direction. Days get shorter, and our sunlight gets less direct.Around the time of the equinox, Iowa loses approximately 2 minutes, 45 seconds of sunlight every day. That’s nearly 20 minutes per week!Astronomical vs. meteorological seasons The equinoxes & solstices mark what are called “astronomical” seasons. The dates and lengths of these seasons vary year to year because of Earth’s orbit around the Sun. For weather & climate scientists, that’s a problem. Temperature, rain, & snow statistics can’t be properly compared if our seasons don’t start & end at the same time each year.To fix this, we use “meteorological” seasons. These seasons closely follow the calendar & match annual temperature changes. Meteorological summer is the three warmest months of the year on average (June, July, & August). Winter is the three coldest months of the year average (December, January, & February). The three-month periods in between are fall and spring. Whichever method you want to follow, fall is definitely here now.

Happy fall equinox! On Thursday at 8:04 p.m. local time, the Earth’s axis will be oriented so that no part of the planet is tilted toward or away from the Sun. After that moment, the equinox is over, and those of us here in the Northern Hemisphere start tilting away, heading for the winter solstice.

It’s all about Earth’s tilt

People often mistakenly believe that Earth’s seasons are caused by a change in our distance from the Sun. In reality, that distance only varies by a small amount throughout the year.

Earth’s tilted axis is the true culprit.

For the past six months, our half of the planet has been tilted toward the Sun. This gives us more direct sunlight & longer days. Since the summer solstice in June, we’ve started to tilt back the other direction. Days get shorter, and our sunlight gets less direct.

the fall equinox

Around the time of the equinox, Iowa loses approximately 2 minutes, 45 seconds of sunlight every day. That’s nearly 20 minutes per week!

the fall equinox- all to do with earth's axis

Astronomical vs. meteorological seasons

The equinoxes & solstices mark what are called “astronomical” seasons. The dates and lengths of these seasons vary year to year because of Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

For weather & climate scientists, that’s a problem. Temperature, rain, & snow statistics can’t be properly compared if our seasons don’t start & end at the same time each year.

why the different seasons?

To fix this, we use “meteorological” seasons. These seasons closely follow the calendar & match annual temperature changes.

Meteorological summer is the three warmest months of the year on average (June, July, & August). Winter is the three coldest months of the year average (December, January, & February). The three-month periods in between are fall and spring.

Whichever method you want to follow, fall is definitely here now.



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