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Because the earth turns daily on an axis that is tilted relative to the plane of the earth's yearly orbit around the sun, sunlight falls more intensely on different parts of the earth during the year. The difference in intensity of sunlight and the resulting warming of the earth's surface produces the seasonal variations in temperature.
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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy |
- Instructors could use this interactive as the basis for an inquiry activity. Have students plot differences in temperature or daylight hours for a location in the Northern Hemisphere and one in the Southern Hemisphere on the same graph. Teachers should ask students to infer the seasons from these data.
About the Science
- This resource highlights the impact of the tilt of Earth's axis on daylight hours and temperatures at four different latitudes. It explicitly shows the geometry that is behind that impact.
- Comments from expert scientist: The activity correctly shows how the Earth's surface illumination changes seasonally, thus the fundamental cause of the seasons. It is helpful that it shows both a view looking into the plane of the orbit and down upon it.
My concerns are more about the pedagogy than the Earth science involved. While it is appropriately labelled that the images are not to scale, and perhaps it's helpful that the relative sizes are obviously reversed, it is still a big conceptual leap to understanding the changing sun angles and the duration of daylight.
About the Pedagogy
- This resource provides students with an ecliptic and top view of Earth's orbit around the Sun.
- The resource also provides the distance between Earth and the sun for each month, which allows students to discern that Earth is closest to the sun in the dead of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
- The resource provides a page of definitions and explanation of terms before students launch into their investigation.
- Students can change the angle of inclination of Earth's axis to see the effect of the tilt on temperature and number of daylight hours at four latitudes. Students can extract an understanding of the seasons from this information.
Technical Details/Ease of Use
- This is a well-constructed interactive that is easy to use and can yield several different types of data.
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Sepup Seasons Interactive --Discussion
This post was editted by Audrey Wagner on Jun, 2013
I'm concerned that the subsolar point is inaccurate on this animation. The back line of the ecliptic plane lines up with the subsolar point in this animation, as opposed to the sun. This makes the sun look further south than it should. This is especially apparent when the tilt is set to 0.
edittextuser=11214 post_id=22095 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=6389
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