Groundhog- Weather Prognosticator


In the article, “6 More Weeks of Winter: Punxsutawney Phil Sees His Royal Shadow,” by Jeanna Bryer talks about how the groundhog forecasts the weather. Bryer states how if the groundhog sees its shadow it means there will be more winter and how there has been several times where the groundhog has been accurate.

The article relates directly to one of the portions of the lecture tutorial we completed in class, “Direct Light and Tilt.” The reason being because during the winter the sun is shinning at a greater angle which gives us more of a shadow.

The article was comprehensible and informative in regards to groundhog day. This material about seasons has taught me that the distance between the Earth and Sun doesn’t have to do with our seasons, but the tilt giving us more direct sunlight and longer daylight.


Is There Still Hope for Earth’s Climate?

Not too long ago, the American Astronomical Society (or the AAS) met to discuss varying topics pertaining to astronomy. One such discussion that was brought up was the many potential large-scale solutions on what to do for our current, largely man-made epidemic of global warming.

Anyone reading this post might be wondering, what exactly does climate science and geoengineering have to do with astronomy? An astrobiologist at the Planetary Science Insitute by the name of David Grinspoon argued, “It’s an astronomical problem if we define astronomy to include planetary science and evolution.” Grinspoon, among others (Jane Long, Tom Ackerman, Mel Ulmer, and James Lowenthal), also reinforced that regardless of what creed of science any scientist comes from, “We [humans] need to learn how to become a long-term stabilizing factor on this planet.”

Their discussions on this are especially pertinent to our most recent topic in class, and that is the talk on seasons. As we learned in class and in the tutorial lesson, it does not matter how close we are to the sun, rather it is how much intensity, exposure, and retention of rays that determines seasons and to a larger extent, global climate. Increased water vapor and CO2 emissions have led to more solar retention, which has, in turn, lead to an increase in average global temperatures. Normally speaking, retention of solar energy is a good thing. It’s what keeps us relatively warm in either winter or summer. However as we’ve come to understand, perpetual increases in temperature can cause horrible effects on our ecosystems, and the scientists at this conference hoped to hash out some possible solutions.

The conference when discussing climate change ranged from a variety of points, from maintaining a position that eliminating current carbon emissions is not enough and that there would have to be negative carbon emissions (removing carbon present in the atmosphere) in order to even see any positive change, to difficulties in funding and the dangers of using aerosols to counteract CO2 emissions. Astronomers would, unfortunately, be hit the worst by this due to a favored solution currently by climatologists. They plan on the usage of aerosols and increasing cloud coverage in order to reflect sunlight. While this is the more practical and cheaper solution to reverse current warming trends, it would make observations of the night sky far more difficult than it is already with current nighttime light pollution, among other factors, (according to the article, this would cause an increase in brightening of the night sky by as much as 25 percent).

The full story from the article can be found here:

The Reasons for the Seasons

The second conceptual objective, I can explain how planets have seasons, has been the focal point in class recently. In class we discussed what causes the seasons here on Earth. Earth’s seasons causes are somewhat comparable to those of other planets. However, seasons on other planets are much more dramatic and intense. The article I chose, goes in depth about this concept. A common misconception about the cause of seasons is the distance the Earth is from the sun. Many people believe that the distance the Earth is from the sun is the main cause of the seasons we experience. In class we learned that this is not true. The tilt of the Earth is the main cause of the seasons. The tilt of the Earth ultimately dictates the amount of time the sun is above the horizon in a given day. The tilt also determines the intensity of the suns light. The article I chose, “How the Seasons Shift on Mercury, Venus and Mars”, closely relates to the conceptual objective 2. The Earth has a tilt of 23.5 degrees which, as discussed, is the main reason for the seasons. Each planet in our solar system also experiences seasons, each much different than the other planet. This article also discusses intensity of the sun and the amount of hours the sun is in the sky, closely relating to our discussions in class. The article then begins to describe the seasons on Mercury, Venus, and Mars. Mercury is the only planet in our solar system without any tilt. However, its orbit creates its own version of seasons. The temperature on Mercury can range from -200 degrees Fahrenheit to 800 degrees Fahrenheit depending on its distance from the sun, unlike the cause of seasons here on Earth. Venus has a tilt of only 2 degrees, with a near constant temperature of about 900 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, Mars is tilted 25 degrees causing very diverse seasons. Mars’ orbit contributes to seasons that last different times in each hemisphere. This article was very informative and had many notes that were very comparable to what we exercised in class. Before we started to discuss this conceptual objective in class, I was under the assumption that the reason for the seasons was Earth’s distance from the sun. Now, I fully understand the cause of the seasons here on Earth as well as other planets. This article also discussed planetary seasons, relating to our second conceptual objective. Therefore, article did a great job confirming and summarizing my new knowledge on the cause of seasons.