Saturday, September 15, 2018

Climate Seasons and Astronomy Confused: A Societal Blind-Spot

In the Northern Hemisphere, in the Northern E.U. and U.S., it is ludicrous to claim that winter begins not until December 21st. If we go by the claim, the Christmas season is in the fall—joined by Halloween (and Thanksgiving in the U.S.). Similarly, September sports autumn cooling off rather than three more weeks of summer. In many areas, leaves turn fall colors well before September 21st. As a matter of fact, “Climate scientists define summer as the three months from June 1 through August 31st.”[1] Why, then, do meteorologists on television, at least in the U.S.—that vaunted superpower—announce that fall officially begins on September 21st. They even show “fall begins” on the day of the 21st on the week of weather. Similar, the fools show “winter begins” just four days before Christmas, on the winter solstice. That solstice is in the winter—not the beginning of it.
Just for added confusion, astronomers use the names of the meteorological seasons for the four quarters of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. These quarters are loosely related to the climatic seasons. The “winter” quarter begins on December 21st, the “winter” solstice, when the perpendicular rays of the sun hit their most southern “line” on the Earth; the “summer” solstice, well into summer on June 21st, occurs when the perpendicular rays are furthest north in the Northern Hemisphere. On September and March 21st, the perpendicular rays fall on the Earth’s equator. The solstices are thus associated with daylight extremes, whereas the equinae suggest balanced day and night.
In short, to conflate meteorology and astronomy is a logical error, which is bound to lead to errors and confusion. It surpasses comprehension why weather folks on television apparently do not know that climatically winter in the Northern Hemisphere is in December, January, and February; spring comprises March, April, and May; summer runs from June through the end of August, and fall’s months are September, October, and November. At the very least, the weather “personalities” should be familiar with weather recording. It makes absolutely sense to announce on, say, September 10th that the previous summer had overnight lows much above average, and then say on September 21st that fall has begun. Such a “feat” contorts human nature itself, and yet the blind-spot has unfortunately endured.

1. Doyle Rice, “Can’t Sleep on It: Nights Are Hottest on Record,” USA Today, September 7, 2018.