Summer is coming to a close and the nights are being bathed in that familiar golden glow of autumn , but when does the season officially start?
Well, it all depends on which calendar you are setting your seasonal clocks by.
There is the very regimented meteorological calendar that splits the year into four equal sections based on our Gregorian inherited calendar, or there is the scientific astronomical look at the seasons that ties into the equinoxes and solstices.
Below we have had a look at when the official calenders say autumn starts, why and what it means.
So sit back with your pumpkin spiced latte in front of an open fire with your favourite cardie, autumn is here…
The meteorological calendar is simple. You take each season and divide it up over three calendar months.
This means meteorological autumn starts on September 1 every year and ends on November 30.
And the rest of the seasons are defined as Spring (March, April, May), Summer (June, July, August), Autumn (September, October, November) and Winter (December, January, February).
Marking the seasons this way makes it easier for collating statistics and comparing weather forecasts.
This year, according to the astronomical calendar, autumn begins on Friday, September 22 and ends on Thursday, December 21.
The astronomical calendar is based around the rotation of the earth and its relation to the obit of the sun, so the dates of the seasons change slightly each year.
The Earth’s tilt is 23.5 degrees relative to the plane of its orbit and means that, although one revolution of the planet takes 24 hours – it’s different depending on the time of year.
For example, during the summer, the northern hemisphere is tilted towards the sun, meaning we get longer days as more light falls on this part of the surface.
After the Autumn equinox – which is always on or around September 22 – the days become shorter and the nights longer in the northern hemisphere, while those in the southern hemisphere begin to enjoy longer days and shorter nights.
The word equinox is Latin for “equal night”
On the autumnal equinox, the Earth hits the turning point in its orbit where neither the North or the South poles are tilted towards the sun. That means the amount of daylight and night time is the same at all points on the Earth’s surface.
Meteorologists use it as the official turning point in the seasons because – although it can vary from year to year, it allows for the most accurate record-keeping.
When do the clocks go back?
This year the clocks will go back an hour on Sunday, October 29. Remember that in the clocks ‘fall’ back in October and ‘spring’ forward in March.
This is when Britain will revert back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) from Daylight Savings Time (DST).
What is the history behind DST?
DST was first introduced in Britain in May 1916, but the concept was first developed by William Willett almost a decade earlier. A builder by trade, Willett produced a pamplet in 1907 called The Waste of Daylight; in it, he argued that the clocks should be brought forward before the summer, in order to encourage people to get out of bed earlier and enjoy the morning sunlight.
Britain would eventually adopt DST in 1916, during WWI – but Willett wasn’t around to see it, as he had died a year earlier.
Should we still be using a 20th Century method?
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) argues that this “obsolete technology” increases the risk of accidents throughout the UK when the clocks revert back to GMT, due to the shorter days and longer nights.
To combat this, RoSPA is proposing the introduction of Single/Double Summer Time (SDST) – this would see the clock move forward to GMT+1 in the winter, and GMT+2 in the summer, increasing evening sunlight all year round.
Kevin Clinton, RoSPA’s head of road safety, said: “Child pedestrians are particularly vulnerable during the afternoon school run, when they digress on their way home and so are exposed to traffic risk for longer than their morning trip to school.
“During that period motorists are also tired after the day’s work, concentration levels are low, and journey times are increased due to shopping and social trips.
“For these reasons, increased evening daylight would produce significant results in preventing accidents to children and other road users.”
What about the weather?
According to the Met Office the sunniest autumn was in 1959, when we had 343.6 hours of sunshine. The warmest was in 2006 with the average temperature of 11.4 C and the driest was in 1922 when there was just 193.4 mm of rain.
Compare that to the wettest in 2000 when there was 497.8 mm of rain and the coldest autumn was in 1919 when the average temperature was just 7 C.
The Met Office has predicted changeable weather for most of September in its long range forecasts.
They said: “Through this period, we are most likely to see changeable weather conditions across the United Kingdom with spells of wet and windy weather interspersed with drier and brighter interludes.
“On balance the spells of rain and strong winds are most likely in the north and west, with drier, brighter weather more common in the south and east.
“Temperatures will probably remain close to normal for the time of year, though we may see short-lived warmer spells at times, especially in the southeast.”
September’s Harvest moon
The harvest moon is the full moon closest to the autumn equinox which falls on September 22 this year. The lunar event has the potential to make the moon appear much bigger than normal and in Europe.
The spooky change will be more noticeable with binoculars or telescopes, but it can still be seen with the naked eye. This year it takes place on September 6.
What about the hunter’s moon?
The moon typically rises 50 minutes later each day, but a Hunter’s Moon usually rises 30 minutes later, leaving a short gap between sunset and moonrise.
This creates more light during the evening, which traditionally gave hunters and farmers longer to finish their work. This year it will take place on October 5.
Stunning Hunter’s Moon and supermoon will be visible this week
Is it really brighter than other moons?
No. The shortened time between sunset and moonrise is due to the moon’s orbit to Earth and this makes it look bigger, and therefore brighter, than usual. Of course the moon doesn’t actually change in size, so it’s an optical illusion, but a very beautiful one.
The Hunter’s Moon should look big and orange in colour. It’s close proximity to the horizon gives it its orange glow – although this is true of any full moon – but the hue is more pronounced on a Hunter’s Moon due it looking bigger than usual.
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