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Treebeard's Stumper Answer
15 Nov 96

Hard rain, then a perfect week of Indian Summer. The hills are turning green, and trees are showing Fall colors at the same time! Our confusing seasons are caused by the tilt of the Earth's axis as we go around the sun. The extremes are the Summer Solstice on June 21, the longest day of the year, and the approaching Winter Solstice on December 21, the shortest day of the year. But why are the longest and shortest days at the beginning of summer and winter and not the middle?

The Winter Solstice on December 21 is the shortest day of the year. But why is it at the beginning of winter and not the middle? It's the same reason why the first batch of pancakes takes longer to cook than the second. Because you have to heat the griddle. The land, the air, and especially the oceans hold the heat of summer long into winter. By the time the earth cools off, the sun is already past its ebb. That said, I notice that winter is coming a bit early this year!

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Marc Kummel / mkummel@rain.org