Learning about seasons around the hemisphere

Seasons change and they bring much change around the world. Perhaps, the leaves are turning color or the birds don’t sing or chirp as much as they used to. Another sign that fall is approaching might be less sunlight. All of this indicates the summer season is gradually transitioning to the fall or autumn season.

As C. S. Lewis greatly interprets the fall season as:

“But I remember more dearly autumn afternoons in bottoms that lay intensely silent under old great trees”

Did you know that this change in season is due to the Earth’s rotation around the sun? As a matter of fact, the Earth is divided into the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere, just to represent what happens to the sun exposure on earth.

Since the Earth rotates around the sun on an axis, the exposure to the sun varies giving the different seasons. In the months of May, June, and July, the Earth is exposed the most to the sun, providing the summer season in the northern hemisphere. While in the southern hemisphere, it is winter with less sun exposure in that part of the world.

Fall brings beautiful colors in leaves.

However, in the months of December, January, and February, the Earth is exposed the least to the sun, allowing the winter season to occur in the northern hemisphere. In turn, the southern hemisphere has the summer season. Seasons are categorized as:

  • spring = primavera (vernal),
  • summer = verano (estival),
  • autumn or fall = otoño (autumnal), and
  • winter = invierno (hibernal).

Of course, in a yearly calendar, there are four important dates (besides holidays) that tells when the seasons change. In the 2012 calendar, these dates are or were March 20th, June 20th, Sept. 22nd, and Dec. 21st, each represents the equinox and solstice points in a calendar year. The year 2012 is special since it is considered as a leap year.

The longest summer day occurred on June 20th and the longest winter day will occur on December 21st, when night and day are equally 12 hours apart. Equinox is derived from the Latin ‘equal night’ and solstice ‘to stand still sun’. Fall or autumn season will begin on September 22nd. In the calendar year, you might experience spring/summer between March and June and fall/winter between September and December.

Since seasons change, climate changes too, which affects how different species survive. In the winter months, birds migrate to warmer climates and bears hibernate until spring.

Isn’t amazing how nature works for all living creatures on Earth? How are you getting ready for fall or autumn?

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Facts about penguins for kids

Some birds fly to warmer climates in winter to stay warm. Other birds just stay in their natural habitat. For penguins, it is a matter of using pre-existent physical features that helps them survive the harsh winter.

During the winter season, penguins need to survive the hard conditions of short days and little or no food. But their bodies have adapted to withstand the freezing temperatures that surround them. But how do penguins stay warm? Very simply, they use their body fat. That’s right!

The body fat in penguins serves as insulation to keep them warm from the inside out. Insulation uses special non-conductive materials to maintain the drastic changes in temperature or prevent the release of heat. Fat generates heat in the form of special molecules. These special components in fat, when broken down, hold the heat inside a body. This layer of fat in the epidermal skin layer acts as a sealant from the outside world to the inner layer of the penguin.

iStockphoto

In this way, penguins are able to withhold the freezing temperatures or blustering winds. Not only does fat serves as energy, but also it is the main supply for penguins to survive when food sources are low or scarce. Just like in hibernation, the fat is converted to energy to keep penguins warm and alive.

But unlike polar bears, penguins stay awake during the winter season. This is very crucial for the survival of penguins, especially for the male penguin. The male penguin is the partner that cares and maintains the egg while the female penguin hunts for food. It keeps the fertilized egg tucked inside its warm pouch incubating it until it’s ready to hatch.

The male penguin doesn’t have much chance to hunt or find food during this period. And it loses about 50% of their body weight during this nesting season. While predators are at large during the winter season, male penguins have to worry about keeping their precious possessions – their eggs, alive. In this family of penguins, everyone has a part to play. And to help them survive it all, they have fat as the insulation barrier.

Why do birds migrate in winter?

Well, at least for some birds, migration is a method of survival. Migration in birds is the movement of birds from colder to warmer temperatures. They often migrate in groups or flocks and colonize in certain regions.

Because of lack of shelter and food, birds need to migrate to warmer climate when the temperatures fall below normal. During the colder weather in winter, some birds migrate from the Artic to the southern areas of the globe. Some of these places include North America, South America, and Africa.

In particular, birds that live in the northern part of the United States tend to migrate to the southern states, where the warmer temperatures are more consistent. These birds such as geese, ducks, and other types of birds tend to fly in a particular manner. Experts have shown that some flocks of birds unite to fly in what’s called a flyway pathway.

This type of path allows some birds to follow a specific route during migration. It is still unknown how some birds really know what path they need to follow during migration. Some experts believe it is a learned trait or genetically inherited. It is possible that these birds that migrate also can detect the magnetic field of the earth.

These birds usually fly in unison in a V-shape format, which allows conservation of energy. These birds try to avoid large bodies of water with little foliage to protect them. They tend to fly near mountain ranges and river coastlines. For some birds, it seems thet have a built-in map or compass that lets them know where and when to fly south for the winter.

Although it is not quite clear when and why they need to migrate, it is evident that the lack of resources is the big motivator in migration. It is also an opportunity to wait for the birth of their offsprings. If they survive the trip back home and adapt to the new conditions, these new birds will ensure the legacy of the genetic pool.

And it continues with their genetic heritage that their parents passed on to them. To observe these creatures migrate, you might need lots of patience and a good pair of binoculars. But it is all worth it when you see these awesome birds in their V-shape form fly away to their destination.