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Home PENNSYLVANIA Fall Equinox: What it is and why meteorologists start the season earlier

Fall Equinox: What it is and why meteorologists start the season earlier

Happy fall equinox! For a moment on Thursday, 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 and 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. Astronomical vs. meteorological seasonsThe equinoxes and 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 and climate scientists, that’s a problem. Temperature, rain and 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 and match annual temperature changes. Meteorological summer is the three warmest months of the year on average (June, July and August). Winter is the three coldest months of the year average (December, January and February). The three-month periods in between are fall and spring. Whichever method you want to follow, fall is definitely here now. Watch the video above for the full story.

Happy fall equinox! For a moment on Thursday, 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 and 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.

Astronomical vs. meteorological seasons

The equinoxes and 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 and climate scientists, that’s a problem. Temperature, rain and 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 and match annual temperature changes.

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

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

Watch the video above for the full story.



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