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The difference between meteorological and astronomical seasons

It is officially meteorological summer. However, astronomical summer is not for another two weeks.

SAN ANGELO, Texas — It is officially the month of June. This begins the warmest three months of the calendar year here in West Texas, June, July, and august. We call these three months “meteorological summer”. However, many do not know the difference between meteorological seasons and astronomical seasons.

Astronomical seasons are what people normally consider spring, winter, fall, and winter. This is all about the tilt of the earth in relation to the sun. On the first day of summer and winter, the tilt of the earth is 23.5 degrees. The sun is directly over the tropic of cancer in the northern hemisphere on the first day of summer, and directly over the tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere on the first day of winter. On the first day of fall and spring, the sun is directly over the equator. This tilt of the earth also contributes to the amount of daylight changing throughout the year.

Meteorological seasons are completely different! These seasons are based on the annual temperature cycle and also follow our normal daily calendar. These seasons are always three months long and  change on the first of the month, whereas astronomical seasons vary each year between 89 and 93 days, based on the earths tilt. Because it takes 365.24 days for the earth to travel around the sun, an extra day is added to the calendar every four years. This is called leap day.  

By following the civil calendar and having less variation in season length and season start, it becomes much easier to calculate seasonal statistics from the monthly statistics, both of which are very useful for agriculture, commerce, and a variety of other purposes. This is why meteorological seasons exist in the first place and make it much easier when forecasting and keeping records.

Now you know the difference between astronomical seasons and meteorological seasons. I’ll tell you one thing, both have hot summers here in West Texas! Make sure to take it easy and drink plenty of water the next few months. 

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