Autumn, the season between summer and winter in which temperatures decrease progressively. In the United States, the season is commonly referred to as autumn because leaves fell from trees during this time. Autumn is typically defined in the Northern Hemisphere as the time between the autumnal equinox (day and night are of equal length) on September 22 or 23 and the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year) on December 21 or 22. In the Southern Hemisphere, autumn is the time between the autumnal equinox on March 20 or 21 and the summer solstice on June 21 or 22. The autumn transition from summer heat to winter chill occurs only at middle and high latitudes; in equatorial regions, annual temperature fluctuations are minimal. In polar regions, autumn is extremely brief. For seasonal physical causes, see season.
In European languages, autumn is associated with the harvesting of crops; in many cultures, autumn, like the other seasons, has been marked by rituals and celebrations centered on the season’s significance to food production. Autumn is the time when animals gather food in preparation for winter, and those with fur typically develop thicker coats. As temperatures decline, many birds migrate toward the Equator to escape the cold. Indian summer, a period of unseasonably warm weather that occasionally occurs in late October or November, is a prevalent autumn phenomenon in the central and eastern United States and Europe.
Separation of the seasons according to the weather
Season, one of four divisions of the year based on consistent annual weather variations. In the Northern Hemisphere, the seasons—winter, spring, summer, and autumn—are commonly thought to begin on the winter solstice, December 21 or 22, on the vernal equinox, March 20 or June 21 or 22, the summer solstice; September 22 or 23, the fall equinox. Summer and winter are inverted in the Southern Hemisphere, as are spring and autumn.
Outside of the tropics and polar regions, the annual cycle consists of a temperature oscillation between a single maximum and a single minimum. This oscillation is caused by the annual variation in the angle at which the Sun’s beams strike the Earth’s surface and the annual variation in the duration of daily sunlight on the Earth’s surface. As the Earth orbits the Sun, its axis maintains a nearly constant orientation in space, with an inclination of approximately 66°33′ to the orbital plane. During the six-month portion of each orbit when the North Pole is tilted toward the Sun, a point in the Northern Hemisphere receives the Sun’s rays at an angle closer to 90° than a point in the Southern Hemisphere; this results in greater heating and longer hours of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere. Throughout the remaining six months, these conditions are reversed.
In polar latitudes, the seasons consist of a brief summer and a lengthy winter; this division is predominantly based on sunlight, as there is continuous darkness throughout the entire winter and continuous daylight or twilight throughout the entire summer. In low latitudes, where the range of annual insolation (receipt of solar radiation) and temperature cycle is very small, seasonal weather variations are primarily influenced by wet and dry periods. The movements of the intertropical convergence zone, a narrow belt of copious precipitation that encircles the Earth near the Equator, are responsible for these moisture variations. It rotates north and south seasonally with the Sun, causing the regions it traverses to experience alternating wet and dry seasons; regions very close to the Equator that are traversed twice yearly by this belt experience four wet and four dry seasons.
Because of the monsoon, India experiences a marked seasonal alternation of rainfall and drought that extends northward into latitudes that also experience distinct temperature seasons. This results in a mild dry season from December through February, a hot dry season from March through mid-June, and a rainy season from mid-June through November.
summer, the warmest season between spring and autumn. In the Northern Hemisphere, it is the period between the summer solstice (the longest day of the year) on June 21 or 22 and the autumnal equinox (day and night are of equal duration) on September 22 or 23. In the Southern Hemisphere, it is the period between the winter solstice on December 22 or 23 and the spring equinox on March 20 or 21. Only in middle and high latitudes is there a temperature contrast between summer and the other seasons; temperatures in equatorial regions vary little from month to month. For seasonal physical causes, see season.
The concept of summer in European languages is associated with growth and maturation, particularly that of cultivated plants, and in regions with sufficient summer rainfall, summer is the season with the greatest plant growth. In many cultures, summer is celebrated with festivals and rituals in recognition of its significance in food production.
Winter, between autumn and spring, is the coldest season of the year; its name is derived from an ancient Germanic word that means “time of water” and refers to the rain and snow of winter in middle and high latitudes. In the Northern Hemisphere it is commonly regarded as extending from the winter solstice (year’s shortest day), December 21 or 22, to the vernal equinox (day and night equal in duration), March 20 or 21, and in the Southern Hemisphere from June 21 or 22 to September 22 or 23. Only middle and high latitudes experience winter’s low temperatures; equatorial regions experience nearly constant high temperatures throughout the year.
In European languages, winter is associated with the season of dormancy, especially in relation to crops; some plants die, leaving their seeds behind, while others simply cease development until spring. Numerous invertebrates perish, and numerous animals, particularly those that hibernate, enter a state of dormancy.
Harvest Agricultural Season
harvest, the time of year when products are gathered. The term is derived from the Old High German herbist or the Anglo-Saxon haerfest (meaning “autumn”). Since ancient times, harvest time has been a time of celebration. The Romans celebrated Ceres with Ludi Cereales, or feasts. On November 1, the Druids celebrated their produce. In pre-Reformation England, the harvest festival began on Lammas Day (1 August, Old Style).
The harvest of the primary cereal crop, typically wheat, maize, or rice, has always been cause for celebration around the globe. Numerous harvest-related traditions derive from the animistic belief in a deity such as the Corn Mother or Rice Mother, and the semiworship of the last sheaf was the defining characteristic of the harvest home.
The personification of crops left its imprint on European harvest traditions. In western Russia, for instance, the figure made from the last sheaf of corn was referred to as a “bastard,” and a child was wrapped in it. The woman who bound this sheaf represented the “corn mother,” and an elaborate simulation of childbirth occurred, with the boy in the sheaf wailing like a newborn and being enveloped in swaddling bands upon his release. There were also traces of sympathetic magic in England. In Northumberland, a wheat sheaf adorned in a white dress and multicolored ribbons was affixed to a pole. During the harvest supper, this “kern baby,” or harvest monarch, was displayed prominently. In Scotland, if the final sheaf was harvested prior to Hallowmas (the Feast of All Saints), it was referred to as the “maiden,” and only the youngest female in the field was permitted to harvest it.
Among harvest traditions, harvest laments are among the most intriguing. For example, the ceremony of the Devonshire reapers was largely a continuance of pre-Christian customs. After the wheat was harvested, the harvesters would select the finest ears, which they referred to as “the neck.” They would then form a ring, with an elderly man grasping the neck in the center. At his signal, they would all remove their hats and exclaim “The neck!” three times while standing erect with their hats held above their heads. Then they would exclaim, “Wee yen!” Way to go!” or “We do not!” On a still evening in autumn, “crying the neck” had a dramatic effect when heard at a distance.
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