September Equinox Marks the Beginning of Fall in Fulton

Leaves are changing colors around campus. PHOTO BY JIM MALVEN.

Leaves are changing colors around campus. PHOTO BY JIM MALVEN.



On Sept. 23, a major meteorological event, the September Equinox, signified the end of the summer season. The shift sparked conversation among Westminster students from around the world about the beginning of fall in Fulton and how it compares to autumn in their home states and countries.

During Missouri autumns, temperatures dip from their summer levels, the amount of daylight decreases, and farmers hurry to harvest their crops before the bitter cold arrives. This transition season, a shift from the long, hot days of summer to the cold, dark winter days, occurs because of the Earth’s tilt.

“The … Autumn Equinox occur[s] when the Earth is neither titled away from the sun nor toward it, but the tilt of the Earth is oriented parallel to the sun, such that the Northern and Southern Hemisphere[s] receive roughly equal amounts of light,” said Dr. Gabe McNett, a biology and environmental science professor.

After the Equinox, the Earth’s continuous wobbling on its axis quickly throws off the balance. In late September, the Northern Hemisphere receives about the same amount of sunlight and solar energy as the rest of the world, but as October approaches, it begins losing sunlight until the last week or two of the calendar year, when the Northern Hemisphere starts to slowly tilt back toward the sun.

Another Equinox occurs in the spring, when the Earth reaches a solar balance in March, before the Northern Hemisphere begins to receive more solar energy than the Southern Hemisphere.

A trademark of autumn is that leaves change color and fall off their trees, a phenomenon so common during autumn that the season is more frequently called “fall.” Like the colder weather and loss of daylight, this is also due to the tilted Earth.

“Leaves falling off trees, technically called abscission, is an adaptation to survive the harsh winter months, as plants go into a state of dormancy,” McNett said. “In the fall, deciduous trees halt the production of chlorophyll, leading to these previously masked colors now being visible, so we see the beautiful colors of fall.”
The changing leaves is something that many people love about fall.

“I like how the leaves turn golden; it’s just a nice color,” said Kunzes Dumbang, ’15, from Ladakh, India.

“It’s really nice to see the leaves fall down,” added Sireen Tamrakar, ’17, from Kathmandu, Nepal.

In addition to the colorful leaves, another trademark of autumn is the cooler weather. Fall temperatures in Missouri generally range from the upper 40s to the low 80s.

“I was so excited about today being the first day of fall,” said Hannah Macon, ’19, from St. Louis, on Wednesday. “I don’t like it too, too hot, but I don’t like it too, too cold.”

Of course, not everyone is happy about the autumn weather here.

Isaac Coronel, ’17, from Mesa, Ariz., said he doesn’t like the cold.

“It gets too cold at nighttime and in the morning,” Coronel said. “That’s the only thing I don’t like about it,” he said, adding: “The summer here in Missouri is the same as it would be in autumn, just more humid, and the regular fall we have here in Missouri is pretty chilly, actually. It’s a lot chillier than I would expect. Arizona doesn’t really have a lot of chilly, chilly weather, at least not until late winter.”

Tamrakar is also used to warmer autumns in Nepal.

“My fall is similar to here, but it is warmer than in Fulton, and usually, it rains much more than here,” she said. “The weather is more humid, and the sun is [harsher].”
Other students are used to colder autumns than the ones they are experiencing in Fulton.

“Fall is when it starts to get really cold,” said Dumbang, referring to her home in the Indian Himalayas. She said that she enjoys her falls back home more because the transition to winter is much clearer there, with snowfall and dramatically lower temperatures than here, where the weather can often be unpredictable.

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