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Why is Summer Hot?

It is quite common for people to believe that summer is warmer than winter,
basing the explanation on the belief that Earth is closer to the Sun during the
summer than in the winter. Even a sizable fraction of Harvard graduates carry
this belief (Schneps, 1987, mentioned in Green, 2003). In reality, this is exactly
opposite the situation in the northern hemisphere. The separation of Earth and
Sun is greatest at the beginning of July and least at the beginning of January.
More direct sunlight and the greater duration of daytime in summer months
makes summer warmer than winter. This activity, effective outdoors or indoors,
will demonstrate how more direct sunlight leads to seasonal temperature
variations.

This activity demonstrates how insolation is affected by latitude by using a pair
of thermometers, each taped to some cardboard, placed outside on a sunny day.
A globe can also be used, outdoors or indoors.

Grade Level: Middle School (6-8)
Curriculum Topic Benchmarks: M3.3.7, M3.3.12, M3.3.14, M4.3.3, M4.3.14, S1.3.5
Subject Keywords: Solar energy, Temperature, Season, Tilt, Inclination

Author(s): Stephen J. Edberg
PUMAS ID: 03_18_08_1
Date Received: 2008-03-18
Date Revised: 2008-06-17
Date Accepted: 2008-06-30

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