21 Weird Ways the World Changes in Autumn
Why leaves change color, autumn babies are smarter, and half the world enjoys mating season in unexpected ways every fall.
But don’t overlook the Arctic tern
Not to be outdone, the white and cuddly Arctic tern demonstrates an annual round-trip migration of 44,000 zigzagging miles between Greenland and the Antarctic—the world’s longest yearly commute for any species.
Autumn used to be called “harvest”
Until about 1500, autumn was just called “harvest.” The full moon closest to the autumn equinox is known as a harvest moon. Before cities electrified, the bright night of the harvest moon was essential for farmers harvesting their late-year crops.
Christmas trees owe their color to their needles
How do Christmas trees stay green in the coldest, darkest months? Thank the needles. Coniferous needles are compact, watertight, and generally harder for weather and insects to destroy. By slowing everything down, pine trees can photosynthesize year-round, keeping the chlorophyll at work and keeping the needles permanently green.
The aurora borealis is more likely to occur this time of year
Hungry for more mystical, colorful phenomenon? Turn your eyes North to the aurora borealis. Also known as the Northern Lights, these geomagnetic storms occur when charged solar particles squeeze through our atmosphere’s defenses and collide with gaseous particles in Earth’s sky. Thanks to longer, clearer nights, this free light show occurs twice as often during fall and winter months. Check out these 38 stunning photos of fall across America.
The autumnal equinox is pretty darn neat
The Autumn Equinox (which occurred on September 22, 2016) is one of two days a year when the sun is exactly in line with Earth’s celestial equator (think, the equator projected onto the sky). As a result, Earth receives exactly 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. The trick to remembering this is in the name: The word “equinox” comes from the Latin meaning “equal night.” Check out these other 13 cool facts about the fall equinox.
Lower levels of vitamin D can mess with your weight
Researchers think that lower levels of vitamin D (due to shorter days and less contact with sunshine) is in part responsible for autumn and winter weight gain. A lack of vitamin D is thought to reduce fat breakdown and trigger fat storage, leading to an average weight gain of two to four pounds each year in autumn and winter. Get the rest of your nutrients from these 27 foods that taste better in the fall.
Daylight saving time in the fall is good for us
Our bodies love to “fall back.” On November 6th, daylight savings time ends, giving us an extra hour of sleep. According to a New England Journal of Medicine report, Americans’ rate of heart attacks has been known to fall on the Monday following the end of daylight savings time in November, while the rate of both heart attacks and car accidents tends to rise on the Monday following the start of DST in Spring. Check out these other mind-blowing facts about daylight saving time.
“Autumn” movies aren’t Oscar-worthy
No film with “autumn” in its title has ever won an Oscar. The Virgin Spring (1960), Summer of ’42 (1971), and The Lion in Winter (1968) provide the other seasons one statue apiece.
Dia de Muertos is fascinating
One of the oldest autumn festivals is Mexico’s Dia de Muertos (November 1st and 2nd), a celebration of departed loved ones and the cycle of life that Mesoamerican cultures may have observed thousands of years before Christmas. Here are 10 fascinating things you never learned about Dia de Muertos.
More pumpkins, please!
Pumpkins, perhaps the most iconic image of autumn, are grown on six of the seven continents (sorry, Antarctica). Their name comes from the Greek word pepon, roughly meaning “large melon.” The word traded hands from French (pompon) to British (pumpion) before colonial Americans dubbed it pumpkin. The colonials went one step further: the phrase “pumpkin-head,” referring to a dork with short hair cut all around, is recorded in America as early as 1781. From pumpkin picking to making leaf art, here are 28 fun activities you need to do before autumn ends.