The autumnal equinox took place on Wednesday, September 22, at 3:20 p.m. ET in the Northern Hemisphere. This date marks the first day of the third season of the year that occurs before winter. Yet, some confusion exists about whether this date marks the start of “autumn” or “fall.”
The easy answer? It’s now technically autumn since the term used to describe the time of year when this equinox takes place, “autumnal,” is derived from the Latin word “autumnalis” which comes from “autumnus” or “autumn.” In the United States, many people though insist that this is the fall season.
What Is the Autumnal Equinox?Read More »
Why Does the Equinox Matter?
The Earth’s position in relation to the Sun and the position of geographic locations upon the planet’s surface in relation to the tilt matter because the Sun is critical to maintaining life everywhere. The amount and length of light that reaches any surface spot impacts temperatures. After the autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, the length of time that people experience daylight hours shortens, which means they experience a season of fewer hours of light and warmer temperatures after a season of long, sunny summer days and before winter season’s colder days. In the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite occurs and spring begins with an increase in the duration of daylight hours.
What Is Daylight Savings Time?
In the Northern Hemisphere, people do whatever they can to make the most of daylight hours. After the seasons change this time of year, the Sun appears along the horizon at a later time every day than in summer and over the course of the season. During summer, it appears earlier. For this reason, many governments in the Northern Hemisphere have chosen to issue orders that people should change the time on clocks so that they can experience more daylight longer when awake, especially in the evening when they’re still active. The term is actually “Daylight Saving Time.” A lot of people don’t realize that the “s” is a misspelling. Daylight Saving Time specifically describes when people roll their clocks forward an hour in spring. Daylight Time, also know as Standard Time, describes when people roll back their clocks before winter.
Disagreement About Changing Time
Some states and individuals in the U.S. disagree with the practice of changing the time twice a year for different reasons. Some people feel that they experience enough sunlight hours that they don’t need to change their clocks. Medical researchers have also learned that changing time twice a year can cause sleep deprivation and have a negative impact on the body, especially on mood and mental health. Equinox time changes have been linked to a higher number of car accidents, heart attacks and suicides. As a result, some states and territories don’t change their clocks. Since Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Northern Marina Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam receive a lot of light year-round, they choose to not participate in any type of daylight saving changes. The people of the Navajo Nation in Arizona follow the guidance of other nearby states and change their clocks. This year, they and everyone else across the country will reset their clocks by rolling them back one hour at 2 a.m. on November 7, 2021 based on their time zones.
The Autumn vs Fall Debate
No one knows the exact reason why the term “fall” is more popular in the United States than “autumn.” It may have to do with the use of the mnemonic phrase “Spring ahead, Fall back,” which helps people remember to change the time on their clocks since “spring” and “fall” have double meaning to indicate both the action and time of year. As noted by many dictionary companies, the use of autumn and fall to describe the third season of the year didn’t originate in the United States. They were both in use well before the birth of the county with autumn in use as early as the 1300s. The season was also referred to commonly as Harvest and Harvest Time.
Some people believe that English poets some time in the 1600s brought fall into popular use because they associated autumn with the falling of leaves from deciduous trees. It’s known that at this same time in history, high numbers of British famers and rural-born individuals and families also relocated to cities and brought with them linguistic differences that included new uses of existing words. Although colonists and settlers brought both terms to North America, autumn fell out of popular use with most common people over time. No matter the reason for the change from autumn to fall, Americans can now find these words used interchangeably across all states and territories. Outside of the U.S., autumn continues to remain the more popular description of the season.
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