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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A season is a division of the year, marked by changes in weather, ecology, and hours of daylight.

Seasons result from the yearly revolution of the Earth around the Sun and the tilt of the Earth's axis relative to the plane of revolution. In temperate and polar regions, the seasons are marked by changes in the intensity of sunlight that reaches the Earth's surface, variations of which may cause animals to go into hibernation or to migrate, and plants to be dormant.

During May, June and July, the northern hemisphere is exposed to more direct sunlight because the hemisphere faces the sun. The same is true of the southern hemisphere in November, December and January. It is the tilt of the Earth that causes the Sun to be higher in the sky during the summer months which increases the solar flux. However, due to seasonal lag, June, July and August are the hottest months in the northern hemisphere and December, January and February are the hottest months in the southern hemisphere.

In temperate and subpolar regions generally four calendar based seasons are recognized: spring (adj. vernal), summer (adj. estival), autumn (adj. autumnal), and winter (adj. hibernal). However, ecologists in Europe and Australia are increasingly using a six season model for temperate climate regions that includes pre-spring (adj. prevernal) and late summer (adj. seritonal) as distinct seasons along with the traditional four (See Ecological Seasons below).

In some tropical and subtropical regions it is more common to speak of the rainy (or wet, or monsoon) season versus the dry season, because the amount of precipitation may vary more dramatically than the average temperature. For example, in Nicaragua, the dry season is called Summer (Oct to May) and the rainy season is called Winter (Apr to Nov) even though it is located in the northern hemisphere.

In other tropical areas a three-way division into hot, rainy and cool season is used.

In some parts of the world, special "seasons" are loosely defined based upon important events such as a hurricane season, tornado season or a wildfire season.

Chinese seasons are traditionally based on 24 periods known as solar terms, and begin at the midpoint of solstices and equinoxes.[2]


Causes and effects

Illumination of the earth during various seasons
Fig. 1
This is a diagram of the seasons, regardless of the time of day (i.e. the Earth's rotation on its axis), the North Pole will be dark, and the South Pole will be illuminated; see also arctic winter. In addition to the density of incident light, the dissipation of light in the atmosphere is greater when it falls at a shallow angle.

The seasons result from the Earth's axis being tilted to its orbital plane; it deviates by an angle of approximately 23.5 degrees. Thus, at any given time during summer or winter, one part of the planet is more directly exposed to the rays of the Sun (see Fig. 1). This exposure alternates as the Earth revolves in its orbit. Therefore, at any given time, regardless of season, the northern and southern hemispheres experience opposite seasons.

The effect of axis tilt is observable from the change in day length, and altitude of the Sun at noon (the culmination of the Sun), during a year.

Seasonal weather differences between hemispheres are further caused by the elliptical orbit of Earth. Earth reaches perihelion (the point in its orbit closest to the Sun) in January, and it reaches aphelion (farthest point from the Sun) in July. Even though the effect this has on Earth's seasons is minor, it does noticeably soften the northern hemisphere's winters and summers. In the southern hemisphere, the opposite effect is observed.

Seasonal weather fluctuations (changes) also depend on factors such as proximity to oceans or other large bodies of water, currents in those oceans, El Niño/ENSO and other oceanic cycles, and prevailing winds.

In the temperate and polar regions, seasons are marked by changes in the amount of sunlight, which in turn often causes cycles of dormancy in plants and hibernation in animals. These effects vary with latitude and with proximity to bodies of water. For example, the South Pole is in the middle of the continent of Antarctica and therefore a considerable distance from the moderating influence of the southern oceans. The North Pole is in the Arctic Ocean, and thus its temperature extremes are buffered by the water. The result is that the South Pole is consistently colder during the southern winter than the North Pole during the northern winter.

The cycle of seasons in the polar and temperate zones of one hemisphere is opposite to that in the other. When it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere, it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and vice versa.

In the tropics, there is no noticeable change in the amount of sunlight. However, many regions (such as the northern Indian ocean) are subject to monsoon rain and wind cycles. A study of temperature records over the past 300 years[1] shows that the climatic seasons, and thus the seasonal year, are governed by the anomalistic year rather than the tropical year.

In meteorological terms, the summer solstice and winter solstice (or the maximum and minimum insolation, respectively) do not fall in the middles of summer and winter. The heights of these seasons occur up to seven weeks later because of seasonal lag. Seasons, though, are not always defined in meteorological terms.

Compared to axial tilt, other factors contribute little to seasonal temperature changes. The seasons are not the result of the variation in Earth’s distance to the sun because of its elliptical orbit.[2] Orbital eccentricity can influence temperatures, but on Earth, this effect is small and is more than counteracted by other factors; research shows that the Earth as a whole is actually slightly warmer when farther from the sun. This is because the northern hemisphere has more land than the southern, and land warms more readily than sea.[3] Mars however experiences wide temperature variations and violent dust storms every year at perihelion.[4]

Polar day and night

Any point north of the Arctic Circle or south of the Antarctic Circle will have one period in the summer when the sun does not set, and one period in the winter when the sun does not rise. At progressively higher latitudes, the maximum periods of "midnight sun" and "polar night" are progressively longer. For example, at the military and weather station Alert on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island, Canada (about 450 nautical miles or 830 km from the North Pole), the sun begins to peek above the horizon in mid-February and each day it climbs higher and stays up longer; by 21 March, the sun is up for 12 hours. However, mid-February is not first light. The sky (as seen from Alert) has twilight, or at least a pre-dawn glow on the horizon, for increasing hours each day, for more than a month before the sun first appears.

In the weeks surrounding 21 June, the sun is at its highest, and it appears to circle the sky without going below the horizon. Eventually, it does go below the horizon, for progressively longer periods each day until, around the middle of November, it disappears for the last time. For a few more weeks, "day" is marked by decreasing periods of twilight. Eventually, for the weeks surrounding 21 December, it is continuously dark. In later winter, the first faint wash of light briefly touches the horizon (for just minutes per day), and then increases in duration and pre-dawn brightness each day until sunrise in February.



Animation of seasonal differences especially snow cover through the year

Meteorological seasons are reckoned by temperature, with summer being the hottest quarter of the year and winter the coldest quarter of the year. Using this reckoning, the Roman calendar began the year and the spring season on the first of March, with each season occupying three months. In 1780 the Societas Meteorologica Palatina, an early international organization for meteorology, defined seasons as groupings of three whole months. Ever since, professional meteorologists all over the world have used this definition.[5] So, in meteorology for the Northern hemisphere: spring begins on 1 March, summer on 1 June, autumn on 1 September, and winter on 1 December.

In Sweden, meteorologists use a different definition for the seasons, based on the temperature: spring begins when the daily averaged temperature permanently rises above 0° C, summer begins when the temperature permanently rises above +10° C, summer ends when the temperature permanently falls below +10° C and winter begins when the temperature permanently falls below 0° C. "Permanently" here means that the daily averaged temperature has remained above or below the limit for seven consecutive days. This implies two things: first, the seasons do not begin at fixed dates but must be determined by observation and are known only after the fact; and second, a new season begins at different dates in different parts of the country.

Surface air temperature
Diagram was calculated (Abscisse: 21. of each month)
Calculation based on data published by Jones et al. [6]
The picture shows Figure 7 as published by Jones et al.[6]



In astronomical reckoning, the solstices and equinoxes ought to be the middle of the respective seasons, but, because of thermal lag, regions with a continental climate often consider these four dates to be the start of the seasons as in the diagram, with the cross-quarter days considered seasonal midpoints. The length of these seasons is not uniform because of the elliptical orbit of the earth and its different speeds along that orbit.[7]

From the March equinox it takes 92.75 days until the June solstice, then 93.65 days until the September equinox, 89.85 days until the December solstice and finally 88.99 days until the March equinox. In Canada and the United States, the mass media consider the astronomical seasons "official" over all other reckonings, but no legal basis exists for this designation.

Because of the differences in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, it is no longer considered appropriate to use the northern-seasonal designations for the astronomical quarter days. The modern convention for them is: March Equinox, June Solstice, September Equinox and December Solstice. The oceanic climate of the Southern Hemisphere produces a shorter temperature lag, so the start of each season is usually considered to be several weeks before the respective solstice or equinox in this hemisphere, in other countries with oceanic climates, and in cultures with Celtic roots.

Ecological seasons

365 days tree.ogg
Seasonal changes regarding a tree over a year

Ecologically speaking, a season is a period of the year in which only certain types of floral and animal events happen (e.g.: flowers bloom—spring; hedgehogs hibernate—winter). So, if we can observe a change in daily floral/animal events, the season is changing.

The hot regions

Here there are two seasons:

  • Rainy season (winter and spring)
  • Dry season (summer and autumn)

The temperate areas

We can clearly distinguish six seasons. Mild temperate regions tend to experience the beginning of the hibernal season up to a month later than cool temperate areas, while the prevernal and vernal seasons begin up to a month earlier. The actual dates for each season vary by climate region and can shift from one year to the next. Average dates listed here are for cool temperate climate zones in the Northern Hemisphere:

  • Prevernal (ca.1 March–1 May)
  • Vernal (ca.1 May–15 June)
  • Estival (ca.15 June–15 August)
  • Serotinal (ca.15 August–15 September)
  • Autumnal (ca.15 September–1 November)
  • Hibernal (ca.1 November–1 March)

Cold regions

There are again only two seasons:

  • Polar Day (spring and summer)
  • Polar Night (autumn and winter)

Traditional season divisions

Traditional seasons are reckoned by insolation, with summer being the quarter of the year with the greatest insolation and winter the quarter with the least. These seasons begin about four weeks earlier than the meteorological seasons and 7 weeks earlier than the astronomical seasons.

In traditional reckoning, the seasons begin at the cross-quarter days. The solstices and equinoxes are the midpoints of these seasons. For example, the days of greatest and least insolation are considered the "midsummer" and "midwinter" respectively.

This reckoning is used by various traditional cultures in the Northern Hemisphere, including East Asian and Irish cultures.[citation needed] In Iran, Afghanistan and some other parts of Middle East the beginning of the astronomical spring is the beginning of the new year which is called Nowruz.

So, according to traditional reckoning, winter begins between 5 November and 10 November, Samhain, 立冬 (lìdōng or rittou); spring between 2 February and 7 February, Imbolc, 立春 (lìchūn or rissyun); summer between 4 May and 10 May, Beltane, 立夏 (lìxià or rikka); and autumn between 3 August and 10 August, Lughnasadh, 立秋 (lìqiū or rissyuu). The middle of each season is considered Mid-winter, between 20 December and 23 December, 冬至 (dōngzhì or touji); Mid-spring, between 19 March and 22 March, 春分 (chūnfēn or syunbun); Mid-summer, between 19 June and 23 June, 夏至 (xiàzhì or geshi); and Mid-autumn, between 21 September and 24 September, 秋分 (qiūfēn or syuubun).


In Australia, the traditional aboriginal people defined the seasons by what was happening to the plants, animals and weather around them. This led to each separate tribal group having different seasons, some with up to eight seasons each year. However, most modern Aboriginal Australians follow either four or six meteorological seasons, as do non-Aboriginal Australians.

The commonly followed dates are as follows: 1st day of March, June, September and December for the start of Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer, respectively.


In India, and in the Hindu calendar, there are six seasons or Ritu: Hemant (pre-winter), Shishira (Winter), Basant (Spring), Grishma (Summer), Varsha (Rainy) and Sharad (Autumn).

See also


  1. ^ David Thomson, Science, April 1995
  2. ^ "Fundamentals of physical geography",, Ch. 6: Energy and Matter:(h) Earth-Sun Geometry, [1]
  3. ^ Phillips, Tony, "The Distant Sun (Strange but True: the Sun is far away on the 4th of July)," Science@NASA, downloaded 24 June 2006
  4. ^ Christian Ho, Nasser Golshan, and Arvydas Kliore, Radio Wave Propagation Handbook for Communication on and Around Mars, JPL Publication 02-5, pp. 59-60, downloaded 23 June 2006.
  5. ^ (Dutch) Begin van de lente (Start of Spring), KNMI (Royal Dutch Meteorology Institute), 2009-03-20,, retrieved 2009-03-20 
  6. ^ a b P. D. Jones et. al.: SURFACE AIR TEMPERATURE AND ITS CHANGES OVER THE PAST 150 YEARS, Figure 7 (Seite 24 von 28 der PDF-Datei)
  7. ^ "Astronomy Answers AstronomyAnswerBook: Seasons," Astronomical Institute, Utrecht University, downloaded 1 August 2008
  • Maris, Mihaela, St. Luchian School, Bacau, Romania, Seasonal Variations of the Bird Species, ref. ecological seasons pp. 195-196 incl. and pp. 207-209 incl.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SEASON (0. Fr. seson, seison, mod. saison, Lat. satio, sowing time, the spring, from serere, to sow; in Late Lat. the word is found with its present meaning, the spring being considered as particularly the season of the year), a period of time, in particular, that of the four periods into which the year is divided by the changing of the temperature, rainfall, and growth and decay of vegetation due to the annual motion of the sun in declination. Divided strictly according to this motion the year falls into four nearly equal seasons, "spring" (i.e. the springing time, when vegetation rises or shoots), "summer" (0. Eng. sumer, cf. Dutch zomer, Ger. Sommer, probably connected with Skt. sama, year), "autumn" (Lat. autumnus, auctumnus, from augere, to increase, the period of ripening or fruiting) and "winter" (common Teutonic, possibly a nasalized form of root seen in "wet"). (See further CLIMATE, METEOROLOGY.)

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Middle English sesoun, seson "time of the year" from Old French seson, seison "time of sowing, seeding" from Latin satiōnem, accusative of satiō "act of sowing, planting" from satum, past participle of serere "to sow, plant" from Proto-Indo-European *se- (to sow, plant). Akin to Old English sāwan "to sow", Old English sǣd "seed". Displaced native Middle English sele "season" (from Old English sǣl "season, time, occasion"), Middle English tide, yeartide "season, time of year" (from Old English tīd "time, period, yeartide, season").





season (plural seasons)

  1. Each of the four divisions of a year: spring, summer, autumn and winter.
  2. A part of a year when something particular happens: mating season, rainy season, football season.
  3. (obsolete) That which gives relish.
    You lack the season of all natures, sleep. Shakespeare
  4. (cricket) the period over which a series of test matches are played
  5. (North American) A group of episodes of a television or radio program broadcast in regular intervals with a long break between each group, usually with one year between the beginning of each.
    The third season of Friends aired from 1996 to 1997.

Usage notes

In British English, a year-long group of episodes is called a series, whereas in North American English the word "series" is a synonym of "program" or "show".

Related terms



to season

Third person singular

Simple past

Past participle

Present participle

to season (third-person singular simple present seasons, present participle seasoning, simple past and past participle seasoned)

  1. (transitive) To flavour food with spices, herbs or salt.
  2. (transitive) To make fit for any use by time or habit; to habituate; to accustom; to inure; to ripen; to mature; as, to season one to a climate.
  3. (transitive) Hence, to prepare by drying or hardening, or removal of natural juices; as, to season timber.
  4. (intransitive) To become mature; to grow fit for use; to become adapted to a climate.
  5. (intransitive) To become dry and hard, by the escape of the natural juices, or by being penetrated with other substance; as, timber seasons in the sun.


Simple English

The four seasons, spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
Season can also be the word for salt and pepper - see Seasoning.

A season is a part of the year. In most parts of the world we say there are four seasons in a year: spring, summer, autumn (British English) or fall (US English), and winter. In some countries people say there are a different number of seasons; for example, some people in Australia's Northern Territory use six seasons.

In places which are tropical and subtropical, people more often speak about the rainy (or wet, or monsoon) season and the dry season. This is because the rain changes more than the temperature.

Summer is a warm season because the days are longer and the Sun is high in the sky, giving direct light to the ground. Winter is a cold season because the days are shorter and the Sun is low in the sky, giving indirect light to the ground. Both the changes in the length of the day and the height of the Sun at noon are caused by the tilt of the Earth's spin axis with respect to the plane of the Earth's path around the Sun. At any time, in any season, the northern and southern hemispheres (halves of the Earth) have opposite seasons.

Spring     Winter
   Summer           Autumn   


The date at which each season begins is different in different countries. In the United States, people say the seasons begin at the solstices and equinoxes. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year, and the winter solstice is the shortest. The equinox is the time when the day and the night are the same number of hours, assuming the sun were a point of light at its center. Since civil dawn occurs when the edge of the sun first appears over the horizon and civil dusk occurs when the edge drops over the horizon, the civil length of day is 12 hours long several days prior to the equinoxes. In the USA, summer begins at summer solstice, winter at winter solstice, spring at the spring (vernal) equinox and autumn at the autumnal equinox.

In Britain, people traditionally say that the seasons begin about seven weeks earlier: spring begins on Candlemas (February 2), summer on May Day (May 1), autumn on Lammas (August 1), and winter on All Hallows (November 1). The Irish calendar is similar, but Spring begins on February 1.

In Denmark, spring begins on March 1, summer on June 1, autumn on September 1 and winter on December 1. In Australia, summer begins on December 1, autumn on March 1, winter on June 1, and spring on September 1.

In the Chinese Calendar, the solstices and equinoxes are in the middle of each season.

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