A Better Way to Visualize the Seasons

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We’ve grown up with four seasons. But they don’t always match what we experience. What about dividing our season by the strength of the Sun?

Think about it. People who go skiing or snowboarding in mid-December have officially hit the slopes during the autumn. Those who ski in mid-March are doing so during winter.  And yet, those March skiers get sunburned six times faster than those on the slopes in December. 

This proves that the Sun is much stronger in mid March.  So is there any way to think of the seasons more realistically, in terms of actual effects and consequence?  You bet.  Instead of the traditional four seasons, simply divide the year into three periods of Sun intensity. Each lasts for four months. 

We have the weak Sun from October 20 to February 20.  We have the strong sun from April 20 right through August 20.  And the medium Sun interval is divided between two periods, August 20 through October 20 and then February 20 through April 20. 

Use these instead of the official seasons and you’ll know when you have the strongest Sun, the greatest danger of burning, and the longest daylight periods for outdoor activities.  As an example, you’ll notice that now in late April we are in the strong Sun epoch.  The end of August is only medium Sun.  Can this mean that today’s sunlight will burn your skin more quickly than a late August afternoon?

Absolutely.  Count on it!  The reason this seems counter intuitive is because we dress not for solar intensity but for air temperature.  Nearly everywhere, the air is warmer in late August than in late April.  So right now we’re mostly covered up. This keeps us from burning or even feeling the Sun’s intensity except on our faces.

Yet it’s true.  We have now entered the four month interval with the year’s most intense Sun.  And, for that matter, the longest days and shortest nights.  For all practical purposes, we can ignore the fact that the official start of summer is still almost two months away. We’ve arrived!

About The Author

Bob Berman

Bob Berman, astronomer editor for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob is the world’s most widely read astronomer and has written ten popular books. Read More from Bob Berman

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