Wonder Contributors

A huge Thank You goes out to our Wonder Friends for submitting today’s Wonder of the Day! Thank You to Mrs. Jacob’s Kindergarten Rockstars and to Ikra. Keep WONDERing, Wonder Friends!  

It’s been a long, cold winter in Wonderopolis, and we’ve had lots of fun in the snow. But we’re looking forward to trading our hats and gloves for shorts and tank tops when the weather gets warmer.

But how do we know warmer weather is really on the way? Is there a chance it will stay cold and keep snowing all year?

Luckily, the answer to that question is “no.” After winter is over, we know spring will come with warmer temperatures and lots of flowers. Then the weather will get hot in the summer before cooling off again in the fall. Cold weather will return as fall turns into winter, and the cycle will start all over again.

You may know you’ll see lots of different kinds of weather over the course of the year, but have you ever wondered why the seasons change? The answers can be found in the way the Earth moves in relation to the Sun.

The Earth’s axis is an imaginary line running between the north and south poles. Each day, the Earth makes one full rotation on its axis. This rotation takes 24 hours, which we call one day.

While the Earth is busy turning daily circles, it is also traveling along a giant oval path around the Sun. This path is called Earth’s orbit. It takes our planet 365 days to make one complete trip around the Sun. In fact, that trip around the Sun is how we define one year.

As the Earth orbits the Sun, it is slightly tilted on its axis. The tilt means that, on any given day, the Earth is slightly pointed toward or away from the Sun.

Depending on where you’re standing on Earth, there are times your half of the world (called a hemisphere) is pointed toward the Sun. At other times, your hemisphere is pointed away from the Sun. As the Earth travels around the Sun over the course of a year and the tilt of its axis points your hemisphere toward or away from the Sun, you experience the changing of the seasons.

Have you ever noticed that the sun doesn’t set until close to bedtime in the summer? By the time winter rolls around, however, you’re probably eating dinner when it’s already dark outside. The amount of daylight your hemisphere receives also varies because of the Earth’s tilted axis.

When the North Pole is tipped toward the Sun, the northern hemisphere receives more sunlight and experiences longer days. This period of longer days, warmer weather and more sunlight is commonly referred to as summer. But just because you’re enjoying a nice, hot summer doesn’t mean everyone on the planet is, too.

When the northern hemisphere is tipped toward the Sun, the southern hemisphere is tipped away. Although residents of the northern hemisphere may be headed to the pool, the southern hemisphere is experiencing shorter days with less sunlight. When it is summer in the northern hemisphere, it is winter in the southern hemisphere.  

Imagine you live in Topeka, Kansas, and you have a friend who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. If you want to plan a visit to see your friend in July, you might not want to pack your flip flops and shorts. When it’s summer in Kansas, it’s winter in Argentina.

Locations near the equator tend to have warm weather year-round. This is because the tilt of the Earth affects them less dramatically. Regardless of whether the Earth is tipped toward or away from the sun, equatorial locations continue to receive more constant light and heat than locations with latitudes closer to the poles.

This is why it can be 12° F in Minnesota on a January day, while it’s 70° F in Florida. Don’t be fooled, though. Just because a location may not experience dramatic seasonal changes doesn’t mean they don’t have seasons, too.

22 Join the Discussion

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    • Happy first day of Spring, Payson! We are so glad that you enjoyed today’s Wonder. The Wonder Video for today shows a time lapse of the changes of the seasons. We have a Wonder about time lapse photography that you may be interested in checking out.

      Wonder #1133: How Do You Speed Up Time?

      Enjoy, Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Hi, Trista! There is more daylight during the summer months, and there is less daylight during the winter months. This all depends on Earth’s rotation around the Sun throughout the year. The sun keeps us nice and warm during the summer months. We hope this helps! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :-)

  1. The seasons change because of how the sun hits the earth, right?
    I liked the video because of how it showed all the seasons changing. It was very cool.

    • WONDERful, Lizzy! You are right! We are so glad that you enjoyed today’s Wonder Video! Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :-)

  2. I think, that it’s cool that the wonder about changing seasons is, on fist day of spring. Also, we learned about how the hemisphere, goes around the world in school the other day. Is there any links that are similar to this WONDER?

    • Happy First Day of Spring, Faith! For a bonus Springtime video, check out today’s Wonder Gallery! We are so glad that you are learning about the Northern and Southern Hemispheres in school! That is so cool! We do have a Wonder that you may be interested in checking out.

      Wonder #168: What Is the Vernal Equinox?

      Enjoy, Wonder Friend! :-)

  3. I was kind of close. ;) Today’s wonder was great. :) I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about slippery floors.

    Fast fact: I think why you put this wonder Why do the season change because today is the first day of Spring.

    Happy first day of Spring! :D Hopefully Ohio will be more green soon. ;)

    TJ :)

    • You are absolutely correct, TJ! Happy first day of Spring to you, too! We can’t wait to see the Spring flowers bloom! Hopefully, you will be able to see some daffodils bloom in Ohio, soon! Have a WONDERful day, TJ! :-)

    • Hi, Summer! Did you know that today is the first day of Spring for the Northern half of the world? This means that the days are going to get longer, and the weather is going to get warmer. This all has to do with the position of Earth as it circles around the Sun. Cool, huh? Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :-)

    • Great question, Makenzie! The changes in the wind has more to do with the jet stream. Check out Wonder #900: What Is a Jet Stream?, and it will explain that colder air moves toward warmer air to create winds. Because of the rotation of Earth, these winds begin to move from west to east, creating a jet stream. The greater the difference in temperature, the faster the winds in a jet stream will move. Thanks for WONDERing with us today, Makenzie! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do the seasons change?
  • Why is there more daylight in the summer than in the winter?
  • Do all areas of the Earth experience the same seasons at the same time?

Wonder Gallery

Vimeo Video http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-four-seasons-image23188099http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-four-seasons-image17551211http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-four-seasons-tree-image8830679http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-four-seasons-image7455776Vimeo Video

Try It Out

What season is it where you live right now? Grab a friend or family member and explore what the seasons have to offer you by checking out one or more of the following activities:

  • What is your favorite season of the year? Why? Take an informal poll of friends and family members. Is there a consensus favorite season? Come up with a pro and con list of things you like and dislike about each season. Use your list to discuss the seasons with friends and family members. How can you use your pros and cons to make the most of each season?
  • Keep your very own sunlight log! For a period of a week or two, record each day what time the Sun comes up and what time it sets. Based upon the data you collect, are the days currently getting longer or shorter? Does your data match up with what you learned in today’s Wonder of the Day about the changing of the seasons? If it doesn’t, keep measuring for a few more days or weeks. Share what you learn with your friends and family members.
  • Spring, summer, autumn or winter — each season provides its own unique delights for the senses. Imagine you are creating a welcome kit introducing each of our seasons to a visitor from a distant galaxy. Create a profile for each season using your five senses: smell, touch, taste, sight, and sound, so your intergalactic buddy knows what to expect during his extended stay on Earth. Here are some questions to help you get you started. Below each question are a couple of examples. Can you guess what season applies to each example?
  • Smell

What scents remind you of this season?

Freshly cut grass

Suntan lotion

  • Touch

What things do you play with, use or wear during each season?

Pumpkins

Diving boards

  • Taste

What foods or flavors remind you of the season?

Peppermint

Pumpkin pie

  • Sight

What things do you see during this season?

Snowmen

Flip flops

  • Sound

What noises do you hear during this season?

Leaves crunching under your feet

Sleigh bells 

Still Wondering

Become a season sleuth! Head on over to National Geographic Xpeditions’ A Reason for the Season lesson to learn the long and short of the changing of the seasons.

Test Your Knowledge

Wonder What’s Next?

You’ll need to let tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day really sink in — and watch your step while you’re at it! 

Upload a Photo or Paste the URL of a YouTube or SchoolTube Video.