Seasonal lag

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Seasonal lag is the phenomenon whereby the date of maximum average air temperature at a geographical location on a planet is delayed until some time after the date of maximum insolation. This also applies to the minimum temperature being delayed until some time after the date of minimum insolation.

Seasonal lag on Earth[edit]

Earth's seasonal lag is largely caused by the presence of large amounts of water, which has a high latent heat of freezing and of condensation. Its length varies between different climates, with extremes ranging from as little as 15–20 days (for polar regions in summer) to as much as 2½ months (for low-latitude ocean areas). Interestingly, in many locations, it is not "seasonally symmetric", that is, the time between the winter solstice and coldest time is not the same as between the summer solstice and hottest time. In low and middle latitudes, the summer lag is longer, while in polar areas the winter lag is longer. In mid-latitude continental climates, it is approximately 20–25 days in winter and 25–35 days in summer.

San Francisco, for example, has a long seasonal lag of almost three months in the summer, with typical temperatures peaking in mid-September, and October as its second-warmest month, but very little seasonal lag in the winter, with the lowest temperatures in late-December.[1] This is unusual for a location 38° north of the equator, but is caused by the water in the Bay Area surrounding the city on three sides. Many areas along North America's west coast have very small winter lag and are characterized by a much more gradual spring warming and rapid autumn cooling.

Seasonal lag on other planets[edit]

Other planets have different seasonal lags. The gas giants Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, as well as Saturn's moon Titan, all have substantial seasonal lags corresponding to the equivalent of between two and three months in Earth terms. Mars, on the other hand, has negligible seasonal lag of no more than a few days.[2] For the case of Venus no seasonal lag would be detected, because the planet undergoes no seasons. And for Mercury, no seasonal lag would also be detected, even for its "anomalistical seasons" since it has a negligible atmosphere.

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