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Autumn (known as fall in North American English) is one of the four temperate seasons. Autumn marks the transition from summer into winter, usually in March (southern hemispheremarker) or September (northern hemispheremarker) when the arrival of night becomes noticeably earlier.

Meteorological Offset Astronomical
Northern hemisphere 1 September – 30 November Autumnal equinox (22-23 September) – Winter solstice (21–22 December)
Southern hemisphere 1 March – 31 May Autumnal equinox (20-21 March) – Winter solstice (20-21 June)


The equinoxes might be expected to be in the middle of their seasons, but temperature lag (caused by the thermal latency of the ground and sea) means that seasons appear later than dates calculated from a purely astronomical perspective. The actual lag varies with region, so some cultures regard the autumnal equinox as "mid-autumn" whilst others treat it as the start of autumn (as shown in the above table).

Autumn starts on or around 15 September and ends on about 20 December in traditional East Asian solar term.



In Ireland, the autumn months according to the national meteorological service, Met Éireann, are September, October and November.However, according to the Irish Calendar which is based on ancient Celtic traditions, autumn lasts throughout the months of August, September, and October, or possibly a few days later, depending on tradition.In Australia autumn officially begins on 1 March and ends 31 May. The vast diversity of the ecological zones of the Australian continent renders the rigid American seasonal calendar an imposed cultural concept rather than relevant to climactic conditions. The seasonal cycles as named and described by the various indigenous Aboriginal peoples of Australia differ substantially from one another according to their local geographical and ecological environment and are intricately dependent on local environmental events and resources.

Etymology

The word autumn comes from the Old French word autompne (automne in modern French), and was later normalized to the original Latin word autumnus. There are rare examples of its use as early as the 12th century, but it became common by the 16th century.

Before the 16th century, harvest was the term usually used to refer to the season. However, as more people gradually moved from working the land to living in towns (especially those who could read and write, the only people whose use of language we now know), the word harvest lost its reference to the time of year and came to refer only to the actual activity of reaping, and fall, as well as autumn, began to replace it as a reference to the season.

The alternative word fall is now mostly a North American English word for the season. It traces its origins to old Germanic languages. The exact derivation is unclear, the Old English fiæll or feallan and the Old Norse fall all being possible candidates. However, these words all have the meaning "to fall from a height" and are clearly derived either from a common root or from each other. The term came to denote the season in 16th century England, a contraction of Middle English expressions like "fall of the leaf" and "fall of the year".

During the 17th century, English immigration to the colonies in North America was at its peak, and the new settlers took their language with them. While the term fall gradually became obsolete in Britain, it became the more common term in North America, where autumn is nonetheless preferred in scientific and often in literary contexts.

In popular culture

Harvest association

Association with the transition from warm to cold weather, and its related status as the season of the primary harvest, has dominated its themes and popular images. In Western cultures, personifications of autumn are usually pretty, well-fed females adorned with fruits, vegetables and grains that ripen at this time. Most ancient cultures featured autumnal celebrations of the harvest, often the most important on their calendars. Still extant echoes of these celebrations are found in the mid-autumn Thanksgiving holiday of the United States, and the Jewish Sukkot holiday with its roots as a full moon harvest festival of "tabernacles" (huts wherein the harvest was processed and which later gained religious significance). There are also the many North American Indian festivals tied to harvest of autumnally ripe foods gathered in the wild, the Chinese Mid-Autumn or Moon festival, and many others. The predominant mood of these autumnal celebrations is a gladness for the fruits of the earth mixed with a certain melancholy linked to the imminent arrival of harsh weather.

This view is presented in English poet John Keats' poem To Autumn, where he describes the season as a time of bounteous fecundity, a time of 'mellow fruitfulness'.

Melancholy association

Autumn in poetry has often been associated with melancholy. The possibilities of summer are gone, and the chill of winter is on the horizon. Skies turn grey, and people turn inward, both physically and mentally. Rainer Maria Rilke, a German poet, has expressed such sentiments in one of his most famous poems, Herbsttag (Autumn Day), which reads

Who now has no house, will not build one (anymore).
Who now is alone, will remain so for long,
will wake, and read, and write long letters
and back and forth on the boulevards
will restlessly wander, while the leaves blow.


Similar examples may be found in Irish poet William Butler Yeats' poem The Wild Swans at Coole where the maturing season that the poet observes symbolically represents his own aging self. Like the natural world that he observes he too has reached his prime and now must look forward to the inevitability of old age and death. French poet Paul Verlaine's "Chanson d'automne" ("Autumn Song") is likewise characterized by strong, painful feelings of sorrow. Keats' To Autumn, written in September 1819, echoes this sense of melancholic reflection, but also emphasises the lush abundance of the season.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;'


Other associations

Halloween Pumpkins
Autumn is also associated with the Halloween season (which in turn was influenced by Samhain, a Celtic autumn festival), and with it a widespread marketing campaign that promotes it. The television, film, book, costume, home decoration, and confectionery industries use this time of year to promote products closely associated with such holiday, with promotions going from early September to 31 October, since their themes rapidly lose strength once the holiday ends, and advertising starts concentrating on Christmas.

Since 1997, Autumn has been one of the top 100 names for girls in the United States.

In Indian mythology, autumn is considered to be the preferred season for the goddess of learning Saraswati, who is also known by the name of "goddess of autumn" (Sharada).

Tourism

Although color change in leaves occurs wherever deciduous trees are found, colored autumn foliage is most famously noted in two regions of the world: most of Canada and the United States; and Eastern Asia, including China, Korea, and Japan.

Eastern Canada and the New Englandmarker region of the United States are famous for the brilliance of their autumnal foliage, and this attracts major tourism (worth billions of US$) for the regions.

References

  1. NOAA's National Weather Service Glossary.
  2. http://www.usno.navy.mil/USNO/astronomical-applications/data-services/earth-seasons/?searchterm=seasons
  3. http://museumvictoria.com.au/discoverycentre/infosheets/planets/the-sun-and-the-seasons/
  4. http://www.met.ie/climate/monthly_summarys/autumn07.pdf
  5. http://www.economicexpert.com/a/Autumn.htm
  6. http://museumvictoria.com.au/discoverycentre/infosheets/planets/the-sun-and-the-seasons/ So when do we actually start the seasons?
  7. http://www.bom.gov.au/iwk/climate_culture/Indig_seasons.shtml Australian Aboriginal Seasons
  8. Etymology of 'autumn' - New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1997 Edition
  9. Cyclical Regenerative Time - (c) Autumn (from 'Symbolism of Place', symbolism.org website)
  10. Halloween (from the Microsoft Encarta encyclopedia). Archived 2009-10-31.
  11. Popular Baby Names, Social Security Online.
  12. http://www.gov.ns.ca/news/details.asp?id=19990921001
  13. http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/the-complete-guide-to-leafpeeping-612904.html
  14. http://www.seacoastonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071009/NEWS/710090335
  15. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000103&sid=a3vkUrgIabaA&refer=us


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