What is Autumn?

Autumn is the third of four seasons on Earth, defined as the transition from summer to winter. In the Northern Hemisphere, Autumn occurs between September and November, while in the Southern Hemisphere, Autumn takes place between March and June. During this time, temperatures will start to drop, daylight times will become shorter to prepare for the Winter Solstice, and trees will begin to shed their leaves.

What happens in the Autumn Months?

The autumn months in the Northern Hemisphere are typically September, October, and November. In the Southern Hemisphere, autumn occurs in March, April, and June. If you live near the equator, you won’t experience much autumn. This is because of the Earth’s position relative to the sun.

In the Northern Hemisphere, autumn is the period between the autumnal equinox (September 22-23) and the winter solstice (December 21-22). The autumnal equinox is one of two points in the year when the night and day are the same lengths (the other is the vernal equinox, which happens in spring). After this point, the days get shorter until the Winter Solstice, the year’s shortest day.

Traditionally in the Northern Hemisphere, the autumn months are the time of the Harvest season (otherwise known as Harvest Festival), meaning crops are ready to be harvested with the end of the warmer weather. This includes apples, tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, and pumpkins. Historically, Autumn was a crucial point of the year, as the volume and quality of crops produced would feed whole communities.

The autumn months have always been seen as a transition period and have been celebrated with rituals and festivals since ancient times. The Celtic festival of Samhain, initially celebrated in recognition of the shortening days and coming of the colder months, was honored at the halfway point between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice. In the 9th century, the Catholic Church moved the festival of All Saints’ Day to the same time, November 1st. Over time, these two celebrations combined into the most well-known and popular modern autumn tradition: Halloween!

Today, we recognize Autumn through its essential qualities, such as the change in weather, the browning of leaves on trees, and seasonal celebrations such as Halloween and American Thanksgiving.

Autumn Trees

Some types of trees lose their leaves in autumn. Usually, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about autumn is the red-brown leaves falling from the trees and piling up on the pavements.

Trees lose their leaves in autumn because the amount of natural light they can get from the sun is reduced, and this causes the leaves on the trees to lose chlorophyll, a pigment present in all plants that is crucial for photosynthesis.

This causes the leaves on the trees to turn orange, yellow, or brown, resulting in a vibrant color change from the green leaves seen in the spring and summer. Leaves will also begin to fall from trees as they eventually die, and the tree will become dormant for the winter and wait for the increased heat and light of spring before the leaves begin to grow again.

What kind of trees loses their leaves in Autumn?

There are specific types of trees that lose their leaves in autumn, called deciduous trees. Most of the world’s deciduous trees will lose their leaves in autumn and grow them again in spring to reduce the energy they use in the winter when there isn’t much heat or light.

Examples of deciduous trees include oak, beech, and maple trees. Some trees do not lose their leaves during the autumn or winter. These are called coniferous trees. Examples of coniferous trees include pine, cedar, and spruce trees.

Which trees lose their leaves first in Autumn?

Many species of autumn trees lose their leaves at various points throughout the season, and some wait until winter to lose their leaves. Ash trees usually lose their leaves first, sycamore trees don’t drop their leaves until winter, and some oak trees will not drop their leaves until late winter when spring is not far off.

What are the critical features of Autumn?

  1. Reduced natural daylight time means that the days are shorter than the nights. In other words, we will experience more hours of darkness than we will daylight. This happens as a result of the approach of the Winter Solstice, which is the shortest day of natural daylight in the year.
  2. Leaves on the trees will turn yellow, orange, red, and brown during autumn. As Winter approaches, you’ll notice that the leaves on trees begin to fall.
  3. Autumn is the season of crops and harvest. For farmers, this is one of the most critical times of the year.
  4. Throughout this unique season, Autumn hosts significant celebrations. This includes Halloween, All Hallows’ Day, Bonfire Night (for the UK), Thanksgiving (for America), Michaelmas (usually celebrated in Ireland), and more.
  5. In Autumn, we will also see the migration of birds. This means that birds who wouldn’t survive living in cooler climates migrate to a warmer location for the Winter months. Birds usually choose Autumn to migrate, so you can expect large bird flocks, such as ducks or geese, flying in the sky.
  6. Autumn is also crucial for some animals, as this is the beginning of the hibernation season. During this time, animals such as hedgehogs and squirrels will gather food and make nests to keep them safe and fed during the cooler climates.

How to describe the weather in autumn

  • Autumn is the season after summer and before winter. We describe autumn as beginning with the autumn equinox. The autumn equinox is when the sun passes directly over the equator causing the lengths of day and night to be equal. After this happens, the days are shorter, and the nights are longer.
  • Autumn is described as ending when the winter solstice takes place. This is the shortest day of the year, and the longest day of the year takes place in June. Solstice is also when the sun is at the highest point in the sky and is seen from the North or South Pole.
  • Describing the weather in autumn: the weather in autumn gets colder and usually windy. The hours of daylight and the hours of the night are the same, and then gradually, the nights are longer and the days shorter. The weather is characterized as being disruptive and frequently changing. For example, it could be warm and sunny in some places, but there is also the possibility of rain and snow in others.
  • We also describe the weather in autumn as having lower temperatures and shorter days as we head into winter. Another prominent feature that people often describe is the shedding of leaves from trees! Autumn is also associated with Halloween, on the 31st of October!

Words or phrases that you might think of to describe autumn or describe the weather in autumn:

  • Acorns are usually seen during autumn because many animals, such as squirrels, will fatten themselves up by eating lots of acorns. Some animals will do this before they hibernate for the winter.
  • Falling leaves – autumn is characterized by the changing colors of leaves and trees shedding their leaves.
  • Bale of hay or haystack – you may have heard of haystack rides at a harvest festival.
  • Harvest – this is the time of year when food is harvested, and there may be harvest festivals.
  • Chilly – it starts to get colder during autumn.
  • Corn – corn, and wheat, among other crops, are harvested this time of year
  • Pine cones – like acorns, pine cones are often seen this time of year
  • Pumpkins – as autumn includes Halloween, pumpkins are often seen
  • Halloween – Halloween is on the 31st of October and takes place during autumn.
  • Scarecrows – scarecrows are another object often associated with autumn.

Fun Facts about Autumn

  • It’s believed that the word ‘Autumn’ comes from the Etruscan word ‘autu’, which means ‘a change in season’.
  • In the Irish (Gaeilge) language, September is known as ‘Meán Fómhair’, which can be translated to mean ‘middle of Autumn’ in English.
  • In China, the Autumn Equinox is a celebrated moon festival.
  • During Autumn, trees produce fresh conkers, used for centuries for games and competitions.
  • The Irish invented the tradition of carving pumpkins for Halloween but used potatoes or turnips instead. It wasn’t until the 19th Century, when mass numbers of Irish communities moved to America pumpkins were used instead.
  • During Autumn, the weather is more likely to include wind and rain as the temperature decreases.
  • Red and purple leaves are actually caused by the presence of sugar being trapped inside the leaves, resulting in a vibrant color being produced.
  • Those who live close to the equator will never experience Autumn, as the sunlight in these areas remains consistent.
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