Essay On The Earth And Its Seasonsnameinstitution

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: World, Earth, Distance, Science, Weather, Hemisphere, Cold, Differential

Pages: 2

Words: 550

Published: 2020/10/02

Common Misconceptions for Seasonal Changes

Children and adults have misconceptions about why there are seasons on earth. This is reinforced by misconceptions about the earth’s shape, as demonstrated by thoughts that the earth is a “flat rectangle,” much less, that there are even two earths, one that is flat that people live on (some on the “top” and some on the “bottom”), and the other earth is actually a planet in the sky (American Psychological Association (APA), 2015). As absurd as these concepts may seem, even Harvard University graduates have misconceptions of a spherical earth and its relationship to the sun causing seasonal change, when the reason stated is wrong: when the earth is farther away from the sun, then it is winter, and when closer, summer (AAAS, 2015).
The “distance theory” is the most compelling reason people give for seasonal changes. The argument is that the differential in the distance of the earth from the sun causes summer and winter. What is left out of this rationale is reference to one’s position on earth, and whether that position is in the northern or southern latitudes. Regardless of any differential distance, the northern hemisphere may be warmer/warm, and the southern colder/cold, or vice versa. That is, there is definitely an “out of phase” scenario with the two hemispheres (APA, 2015). How it is interpreted, though, depends on one’s perspective – or rather, one’s lack of perspective if the “distance theory” is followed.
There are, in fact, differences in the distance of the earth and the sun, but the differences are not too significant. At its maximum distance from the sun, also known as “aphelion,” the earth is about 152,100,000 km. This is approximately 5 million km further than when the earth is closest to the sun, known as “perihelion,” when the distance is 147,100,000 km (Lupu Victor Astronomy (LVA), 2010). Philips notes the 1.7% difference is significant only in relationship to the amount of sunlight falling upon the earth. It is 7% less sunlight at aphelion (Philips, n.d.).
The differential distance is because the earth is not in a circle, but is rather in an ellipse, “a lopsided curve with one end closer to the Sun than the other” (Philips, n.d.). As evidenced by the diagram (UVA, 2010), it is nearly circular, as with many of the other planets, yet all planets “’travel about the Sun in elliptical orbits’” (Philips, n.d.). The reasons for our seasons have more to do with the tilt of the earth or its “rotational axis,” currently at 23.5 degrees. When the northern hemisphere tilts more toward the sun, it is warmer in that hemisphere, even though it is at its most distance from the sun (aphelion). The maximum distance is on June 21, also the time of summer because of the warmth. But in the southern hemisphere, the sun’s rays are more diffuse, and it is colder. The reverse is true on December 21 (National Weather Service, 2015).

Other Planets with Seasons

In similar fashion to earth, most of the other planets have similar elliptical orbits around the sun, and vary somewhat in distance at their perihelion and aphelion. Due to all of the other planets “mov[ing] at different rates, they don't follow our seasons from year
Jupiter, Venus and Mars have “almost no tilt” and do not experience seasonal changes like planets with tilts. Mercury is so close to the sun but without any atmosphere, and with one day equal to 59 for earth, one side of Mercury gets “really hot while in the dark it’s freezing cold,” whereas on Venus, with a dense atmosphere, it is always 900 degrees, “day and night, north and south”. Pluto and Neptune are so far from the sun and with weird tilts that seasons are almost irrelevant there, since they are always cold (Nelson, 2005).


AAAS. 2015. Misconceptions about Why Seasons Occur. Science NetLinks, a division of Advancing Science, Serving Society. Retrieved
American Psychological Association. 2015. Some Common Alternative Conceptions (Misconceptions). APA Website. Retrieved
Lupu Victor Astronomy. 2010. Aphelion-perihelion abd perigee-apogee (Astroinfo). Blog. Retrieved
Maness, David. 2006. Earth Seasons Don’t Fit Other Planets. Nature Notes; LIFE. Daily Press. Tribune Publishing Company LLC. Retrieved
Nelson, George. 2005. Do Other Planets Have Seasons? Science 101: Experts answer teachers’ questions about everyday science. Science and Children, Summer 2005. Retrieved
National Weather Service. 2015. Why Do We Have Seasons? National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office, Louisville, KY. Website. Retrieved
Philips, Tony. n.d. The Earth at Aphelion. Website. Retrieved

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