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January 19, 2011 Trigonometry in Nature: Sinusoidal Patterns in the Graph of Annual Temperature Every 365 days, the

Earth undergoes the same, inexorable cycle that has existed since before the beginning of time. While life in our hectic world seems to be constantly changing, the Earth amazingly continues to behave in the same way it did billions of years ago, as it makes its way around the Sun over and over again. Earths orbit about the Sun is the cause for the four seasons of the year. Though this is a fact that is widely known, there are several popular misconceptions regarding the reason for the seasons; The idea that the seasons are caused by varying distances of the Earth from the Sun is one of these misconceptions. The Earths angle of inclination on its axis is approximately 23.5 degrees, a factor that plays hugely into the change of seasons. As the Earth makes its orbit around the Sun, there is an unequal distribution of solar rays on different parts of the planet. Since there is only one part of the Earth that is exposed to direct sunlight at certain points in the orbit, the northern hemisphere will experience patterns of hotter weather at the same time that the southern hemisphere experiences patterns of cold weather. Not only are seasonal patterns caused by Earths angle with respect to the Sun, but they are also caused by the elliptical shape of Earths line of orbit. As the Earth goes around its orbit, the Northern hemisphere will be

experiencing different seasons depending on how it is oriented with respect to the Sun. So, when

it is summer in the Northern hemisphere, the North is tilted towards the Sun, there is hotter weather and the Sun is above the horizon longer. Contrary to common belief, the Northern hemisphere is actually farther away from the Sun in its orbit during the summer months. At this time, the Southern hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun and is experiencing opposite weather from that of the North.

When graphed, the average temperature that either the Northern/Southern hemisphere has shows a direct relationship to the amount of direct sunlight that is received. In Lambertville, NJ, for example, the least amount of sunlight is received between the December solstice and February. In the winter, then, the temperature levels are at their minimum. Throughout the spring months, as the Earth rotates around the Sun, the temperatures steadily increase, reaching their maximum in July and August. Once the days begin to get shorter and the weather cools, the Earth returns to its low point in the winter. Looking at the graph, it makes the same sinusoidal shape that the graphs of sine and cosine make. If the temperature graph went on forever, it is likely that the temperatures would continue to oscillate at the same rate of Earths rotation around the Sun. Just like the Sine and Cosine graphs, the graph of temperature over a year is periodic, meaning that it repeats itself at regular intervals. The period for this graph is one year, or twelve months; Since it is not expected that the Earth would change its course or rate of orbit about the Sun, this period does not ever change. The amplitude of the graph is the maximum average temperature, 75.2. Unlike the sine and cosine graphs, there is no negative degree measure as an average minimum, so the midline of the graph is not at the x axis. To change the graph to look like a trigonometric function, one would have to average the maximum and minimum temperatures and center the graph along that value. This vertical shift would yield a function looking like y=sin(x) +52.8. Though one can mathematically change the vertical shift based on the graphs position relative to the x axis, the Earth is not likely to change its orbit so that the weather shifts to average warmer

or colder temperatures. If this were to happen, the angle of Earth on its axis would have to change. The graph of annual temperature can make a phase shift depending on ones one perception of when the beginning of the year occurs. The graph shown starts with January, but one could change the graph by starting with March. This can only happen if the shape of the graph changes according to the months respective average temperatures, though. Otherwise, the phase shift in the temperatures of the seasons would mean changing the shape of Earths orbit so that the North experienced summer from December-February and vice-versa. An amplitude change would also be an impossible occurrence. By stretching the amplitude, the Earth would have to experience more extreme temperatures in the different seasons. If this happened, the Earths angle of orientation would have to increase so that certain hemispheres would be much closer or farther away from the sun at given times. Having background knowledge about the nature of sine and cosine has certainly enhanced my understanding of this topic. My knowledge has allowed me to recognize the constant patterns of fluctuating temperature that exists annually by examining real-life numbers. I am able to make logical inferences regarding the periodical changes in temperature and their consistency. In addition, I am able to define the limits of the graphs of fluctuating temperature both based on my understanding of the graphs of sine and cosine and how the world functions.

Works Cited Nardo, John C. "Mathematical Modeling Via Trigonomic Functions." 20 October 2000. Oglethorpe University. 10 January 2011 <http://www.oglethorpe.edu/faculty/~j_nardo/Academic%20Talks/GTMC%202000/GA %20Math%20Conference%202000.htm>. "NJ Maximum & Minimum State Temperatures." NJ State Climatologist: Rutgers. 10 January 2011 <http://climate.rutgers.edu/stateclim_v1/njclimdata.html>. "Sinusoids: Applications and Modeling." 4 May 2006. Math Demos. 19 January 2011 <http://mathdemos.gcsu.edu/mathdemos/sinusoidapp/sinusoidapp.html>.

"The Seasons." Astronomy 161: The Solar System. 10 January 2011 <http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/index.html>. Weeks, Michael. Digital Signal Processing Using MATLAB and Wavelets. Hingham, MA: Infinity Science Press, 2007.