Published February 17 2014
Forum editorial: In praise of Earth’s axial tiltHere’s how it works:
The Earth revolves in orbit around the sun over the course of a year. Earth’s axis is tilted 23.4 degrees from the plain of its orbit. It’s called the axial tilt or obliquity. As the planet revolves around the sun, north and south hemispheres change their attitude toward the sun because of the tilt. The result is the change of seasons. In winter, the northern hemisphere tilts away from the sun. In summer, the northern hemisphere tilts toward the sun.
This time of year, the northern hemisphere is well into its tilt toward the sun. On Earth, the sun appears higher in the sky. Days are longer. Weather begins to shift from winter’s deep cold to hints of spring warmth. The above-freezing weather of Monday and today (maybe into Wednesday) is the first we-can-feel-it expression this season of the Earth’s marvelous axial tilt. And for sure, the warming power of that 93 million mile-distant star could be felt Monday afternoon.
It’s been a long time coming this winter. While not a record-setter, the winter of 2013-14 will go down in contemporary memory as one of the coldest. Few winters match not only the intensity of the cold but in particular its duration.
It is coming to an end. It always does. The celestial mechanics of the cosmos never fail to amaze, never fail to deliver spring. So, as denizens of the long-frozen Red River Valley begin to feel a new season’s warming rays, we say, hallelujah for the tilt!
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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.