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Orbit: Episode Three

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Aira Idris Aira Idris | 21:45 UK time, Sunday, 18 March 2012

In our journey so far we have explored the impacts of the Earth's Spin and Orbit on the weather and climate.

The final instalment of the series explores the influence of the tilt on the Earth's weather and climate, and how the Earth's relationship with the Sun affects the way we live our lives.

Originally the series was called 23 Degrees, (the angle of the tilt) as we considered this factor extremely significant to the variability in seasons our planet experiences. Although the series is now called Orbit, the tilt of the Earth continued to be an extremely important factor of the series. What do you think?

From the arrival of spring in the Hay river to the affects of the monsoon to the people in India, we wanted to uncover how Nature and culture respond to the variations in the Sun's energy.

Kate takes us through the ancient archeological site Chichen Itza, Yacatan region of Mexico. At its peak, in the 10th century AD it was a thriving city that sprawled over 25 square kilometres and was home to more than 40000 people.

We wanted to explore how ancient civilizations had developed a great understanding of our Earth's journey around the Sun, and Kate takes us there on a significant day; the March Equinox. How significant are sites such as temple of Kukulkan and Stonehenge to us today?

In this episode we also wanted to breakdown the key factors that drive the extremes of weather like the Monsoon, Dust storm and the Tornado.

Helen travels to Kerala, South of India to discover what drives the Monsoon and visits Tornado Alley with atmospheric Scientist Josh Wurman to explain 'What causes a tornado?'

A record six EF-5 tornadoes were confirmed in 2011, the most deadly being Joplin Missouri tornado (158 killed, 14 mile path length.)

What do you think about Episode three? How significant do you think the Earth's tilt is to our climate and weather? How far are we in understanding why one supercell drops a tornado and another doesn't? Has our cultural relationship with the Sun changed over time? Leave your comments on this post.


  • Comment number 1.

    Great series thanks. In episode 2 it was stated that the coldest day - on average - was the 18th of January in the northern hemisphere (if my memory serves me well) i.e. approx. 1 month after the winter solstice. Is the same true for the average hottest day of the year in the northern hemisphere i.e approximately 1 month after the summer solstice on the 21st Jun - say the 18th July?

  • Comment number 2.

    Really enjoyed the final part of what I think has been a fantastic series. Congratulations to the whole team, for making the information accessible, thought provoking and incredibly interesting. Really impressed with how you seemed to anticipate the questions I had as the programme progressed and answered them satisfactorily. Still loads more stuff I think you can tell us on this fascinating subject - I look forward to what follows!

  • Comment number 3.

    Brilliant series - graphics explaining the effects and impact of the earth's orbit on our environment easy to follow - contributors, researchers and producers deserve a pat on the back - bbc at its best.

  • Comment number 4.

    Fantastic Series - really enjoyed it. Wished more of this kind of informative and educational material was used in School's more as its genuinely engaging and thought provoking. Teachers could quite easily take several projects away to develop from the material in this series for GCSE and A-Level students. More of the same please BBC!

  • Comment number 5.

    Best series in ages. A very well done to Kate and Helen for making it so interesting , many a promising series is lost by the banality of the presenters.
    More please.

  • Comment number 6.

    What a good and informative mini-series well done the bbc.
    Just one thing, if I never hear the word significant again, it will be too soon.

  • Comment number 7.

    I have really enjoyed the series and I hope there may be some follow-up book to flesh it out. Writing as a non-scientist, I do however question the statement in Episode 3 that "Here on Earth there are a few moments that we all share because we are all on the same journey around the sun and one of those moments is the equinox ........ wherever [you] are .......... you will get 12 hours of sunshine and 12 hours of nighttime." If the equinox is a fixed moment in time then this is an empty statement, like saying "now" is the same wherever we are on the planet. If the equinox is defined as the period of equal day and night then it will occur at different precise times around the world (around the time of the fixed equinox) and I suspect it only actually occurs in a very few places. Most places will have a longer/shorter day in one 24 hour period followed by a shorter/longer period in the next period before and after the equinox. I suspect that Kate was NOT standing on the equator and NOT on the equinox when she had the sun directly above her! I would be interested to hear from scientists to back me up on this - if only to resolve a pub argument!

  • Comment number 8.

    Superb program and it's good we can give an opinion. However, I feel some of your theory is outdated. The planets were formed by another star/sun passing our sun pulling some matter out as it did so. This formed an orbit which then cooled to form the planets. The earth had two moons, one "small" which had a decaying orbit and eventually crashed to earth knocking it off its axis.the present moon will eventually do the same. The Sahara is simply the remains of a sea bed as there was much more water (now locked in the ice-caps). This water covered 80 per cent of the land as we know it. The moon has a heavy side which swung round to face the earth permanently. Hope you do more prog's. Thanks

  • Comment number 9.

    Brilliant series but as usual ruined by music. Why?


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