Meteorological and Astronomical Seasons: Southern Hemisphere graphic



Do you know the difference between meteorological and astronomical seasons? Astronomical seasons are based on the position of the Earth in relation to the sun, whereas meteorological seasons are based on the annual temperature cycle. The Earth’s annual trip around the sun forms the basis for the astronomical calendar in which seasons are defined by two solstices and two equinoxes. The Earth is tilted 23.5 degrees on its axis of rotation, and how the South Pole is oriented toward or away from the sun determines two of these astronomical dates. At the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, the South Pole is tilted away from the sun, whereas at the summer solstice, the South Pole is tilted toward the sun. The equinoxes occur halfway between these events when the sun’s path is aligned with the Earth’s equator. The dates shown describe the astronomical seasons for the Southern Hemisphere in 2022; the exact dates vary slightly from year to year. Meteorological seasons are broken down into groupings of three months in our civil calendar based on the annual temperature cycle. We generally think of winter as the coldest time of the year and summer as the warmest time of the year, with spring and fall being the transition seasons.


NOAA Office of Education/Kaleigh Ballantine

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A graphic of the Earth’s orbit around the sun. Meteorological seasons: Winter starts on Jun. 1, spring on Sep. 1, summer on Dec. 1, and fall on Mar. 1. Astronomical seasons: Winter begins on the winter solstice (Jun. 21) when the South Pole is tilted to the max extent away from the sun, spring begins on the spring equinox (Sep. 22), summer begins on the summer solstice (Dec. 21), when the South Pole is tilted to the max extent toward the sun, and fall begins on the autumnal equinox (Mar. 20).