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Uploaded:2014-06-02
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Ever wonder why the earth has different seasons? Michael Aranda will explain in this episode of SciShow Quick Questions.

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Sources:
http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lmk/?n=seasons
http://education.nationalgeographic.com/archive/xpeditions/activities/07/season.html?ar_a=1
http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/activity/the-reason-for-the-seasons/?ar_a=1
Greetings from the Northern Hemisphere! ... Where in a couple of weeks, summer will officially begin, while our friends in Sydney, Johannesburg and Buenos Aires are getting ready for winter.

But no matter where you are, or when you’re watching this, you’re never more than three months away from a change of seasons. 
 
And who can we thank for this? 
 
The sun, partly. And the way Earth leans into it.
 
So the earth spins on its axis, at a fixed angle of about 23 ½ degrees.
 
And, as the earth goes around the sun, once every 365.25 days, this axial tilt, or obliquity, changes the exposure of the sun’s radiation [that] different parts of the earth experience at any given time.  
 
So, starting in a couple of weeks, the Northern Hemisphere will tilt toward the sun, and people will break out the iced tea and sunscreen, while the Southern Hemisphere will point away, and begin bundling up for the relative darkness of winter. 
 
BUT! Here’s the thing. Lots of people think that the hemisphere that’s tilted toward the sun experiences summer because it’s closer, and therefore hotter.
 
Which is just false.
 
In fact, those of you in the Northern Hemisphere might be surprised to know that Earth is actually 5 million kilometers closer to the sun in January than it is in July.
 
So the difference doesn’t have to do with your hemisphere’s proximity to the sun. It has to do with the angle of the sun’s rays that it receives.
 
Let’s say this piece of paper is Earth’s surface. And this flashlight is the light of the sun. 
 
When the light shines directly onto the paper at a right angle, you see a perfect illuminated circle. But when I tilt the flashlight, that circle stretches into an ellipse.
 
So the same total amount of light is hitting the paper, but it’s now more spread out, so the light energy per square centimeter is reduced.
 
This effect, combined with the fact that higher sun angles result in longer days, means that more energy is heating your hemisphere in the summer, and less in the winter.
 
But if you’re near the equator, you probably barely notice any seasons at all, since you get roughly the same amount of sun year round. 
 
The poles, on the other hand, feel the difference in a pretty big way. That 23 ½ degree tilt ensures they never point directly at the sun, but they still spend about half the year bathed in daylight and the other half in near total darkness. 
 
So the next time you’re picking daffodils, getting a tan, carving pumpkins, or building snowmen, take a second to think about how you’re leaning toward or away from the sun, and enjoy the uniqueness of the season, if you get ‘em. 
 
Thanks for asking, and thanks especially to our Subbable subscribers who keep these answers coming!
 
If you have a quick question, let us know on Facebook or Twitter or in the comments below, and if you want to keep getting smarter with us, just go to YouTube.com/scishow and subscribe!