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How tilt produces the seasons (i)

This happens in two ways. The first is to do with how high in the sky the Sun appears. (NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN - your eyes may be permanently damaged.)

Think about how the Sun appears in the sky during Summer and Winter. In Summer the Sun appears to be high in the sky and feels very warm. In Winter the Sun appears a lot lower in the sky - it often shines into your eyes - and feels a lot cooler than in Summer.

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 Sun in Summer and Winter

How tilt produces the seasons (i)

Sunbeams in Winter and Summer

In Summer Britain's part of the Earth (the Northern Hemisphere) is tilted towards the Sun. At this time the Sun shines more directly on Britain which is why the Sun appears to be high in the sky.

In Winter in Britain the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun. At this time the Sun is not directly above us, which is why it appears lower in the sky.

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How tilt produces the seasons (i)

The height of the Sun in the sky affects the angle at which the Sun's rays hit the Earth, which in turn affects the amount of heat we get from the Sun. In Winter in Britain when the Sun is lower in the sky, the Sun's rays hit the Earth at an angle. This causes the Sun's rays to 'spread-out' over a larger surface of the Earth. This makes the temperature in that place lower.

In Summer in Britain when the Sun is higher in the sky, the Sun's rays shine directly onto the Earth, causing the rays to focus on a smaller area. This makes it warmer there.

You can see for yourself how this works by doing the Torch Experiment.

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 High and low sunbeams

How tilt produces the seasons (ii)

The second way that the tilt of the Earth causes the seasons is to do with how long the Sun stays in the sky each day.

Remember that during Summer Britain's part of the Earth (the Northern Hemisphere) is tilted towards the Sun. The Sun then appears to be higher above us in the sky than in Winter. You can see this if you compare the two diagrams. As the Sun is higher in the sky in Summer it shines on us for longer than in Winter. This gives us more hours of daylight in Summer than in Winter.

So, during the Summer the Sun shines on us for a longer time than during the Winter. This means that we receive more heat and light (energy) in the Summer so the temperature is higher. In the Winter the opposite happens - the Sun shines on us for a shorter time so the temperature is lower.

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 Sun in Summer and Winter

What have you learnt?

It is Winter in Britain because....

  1. The Sun shines on us for a shorter time in Winter than in Summer so we get less heat.
     
  2. The Sun's rays reach us at an angle, 'spreading-out' the heat over a larger part of the Earth.
     
  3. Neither 1 nor 2
     
  4. Both 1 and 2

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What next....?

Now we've seen what causes the seasons what would you like to do next?

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