# Tropical Horticulture: Lecture 2

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1 Lecture 2 Theory of the Tropics Earth & Solar Geometry, Celestial Mechanics The geometrical relationship between the earth and sun is responsible for the earth s climates. The two principal movements of the earth are rotation and revolution. Celestial Mechanics Revolution is the movement of the earth in an elliptical orbit around the sun whose average distance is 93 million miles away. The time to travel 1 orbit = 1 year. During this time there are rotations of the earth. Theory of the Tropics Rotation is the movement of the earth around an imaginary axis (north and south pole). The rotation is complete in 24 hours producing night and day in non-polar regions. The angle of rotation is toward the East. Thus the sun, moon, and stars rise in the East and set in the West. The rotation also effects wind direction (e.g. easterly trade winds) and ocean currents. 1

2 Tilt of the Earth (Inclination of the Earth s Axis) The axis of the earth s rotation is inclined 66.5 from the plain of the ecliptic or 23.5 from an imaginary line vertical to it. The angle of inclination of the earth s axis is constant; this is known as the parallelism of the axis. Distribution of Solar Energy A number of factors affect the distribution of solar energy over the earth and are responsible for night and day and the change in seasons. Degree of inclination of the earth s axis Parallelism of that axis The earth s spherical shape Rotation of the earth on its axis Variation in altitude of the land surface Oblique solar rays (A) deliver less energy at the earth s surface than vertical rays (B), because their energy is spread over a larger surface (top), and because they pass through a thicker layer of reflecting and absorbing atmosphere. A B 2

3 Seasons & Daylength Without the inclination of the earth there would be no seasons. Daylength would be exactly 12 hr light and 12 hr dark except at the poles (90 N&S) when the sun would always be at the horizon. At Lafayette Indiana the sun would be always 40 from the zenith (directly overhead) at noon. Seasonal time (solstice and equinox) is based on the geometry of the earth in relation to the sun during its yearly revolution Solstice The date the sun stands still on its N-S migration. Because of the inclination of the earth s axis the sun at its zenith is directly overhead at 23.5 N on June 21 (the summer solstice) and directly overhead at 23.5 S on Dec. 21 (Winter solstice). Equinox Refers to date of equal night and day period. This is the date when the sun at noon is directly overhead at the equator (March 21 = vernal equinox in the N hemisphere and Sept. 23 = autumnal equinox in the N hemisphere) Spring Winter Summer Autumn 3

4 Equinox At the times of the two equinoxes, then the sun s noon rays are vertical at the equator, the circle of illumination cuts all parallels in half, so that days and nights are equal (12 hr) over the whole earth. At the times of the solstices, the sun s vertical noon rays have reached their greatest poleward displacement, 23.5 north or south. The circle of illumination then cuts all parallels except the equator unequally, so that days and nights are unequal in length except at the equator. 4

5 Daylength Latitude 0 Shortest day Longest day Tropics 10 11:32 12:42 Temperate :56 10:14 9:20 8:05 5:54 13:20 14:04 15:00 16:21 18:49 Polar Length of Day in Various Northern Latitudes* Month Jan. 11:35 11:02 10:24 9:37 8:30 6:38 Feb. 11:49 11:21 11:10 10:42 10:07 9:11 7:20 Mar. 12:04 12:00 11:57 11:53 11:48 11:41 11:28 10:52 Apr. 12:21 12:36 12:53 13:14 13:44 14:31 16:06 May 12:34 13:04 13:38 14:22 15:22 17:04 22:13 June 12:42 13:20 14:04 15:00 16:21 18:49 July 12:40 13:16 13:56 14:49 15:38 17:31 Aug. 12:28 12:50 13:16 13:48 14:33 15:46 18:26 Sept. 12:12 12:17 12:23 12:31 12:42 13:00 13:34 15:16 Oct. 11:55 11:42 11:28 11:10 10:47 10:11 9:03 5:10 Nov. 11:40 11:12 10:40 10:01 9:06 7:37 3:06 Dec. 11:32 10:56 10:14 9:20 8:05 5:54 * In hours and minutes on the 15 th of each month The Tropics The tropic (=turning) is a place where the sun is directly overhead during its N-S migration at the time of the turning. This is 23.5 N and 23.5 S. The names of the tropics (place or band around the earth) are: Tropic of Cancer (23.5 N) Tropic of Capricorn (23.5 S) 5

6 These names are based on the time of the disappearance of constellations (Cancer = crab; and Capricorn = horned goat) in the heavens in Babylonia (30 N). 6

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