Axis Tilt and Orbit Changes Gravitational interactions of a planet, its moons, and the other planets of the solar system cause the tilt of the planet's rotation axis to change and the planet's orbit to change shape and orientation in a periodic way. In addition, the rotation axis precesses. Put all of these agents together, all with different periods, and they can create dramatic changes in a planet's climate by changing the insolation: the angle of sunlight hitting a given point on the planet's surface and the amount of solar radiation reaching the planet's surface. Adding in the other agents of climate change above can make even subtle changes in the axis or orbit much more significant. The angle of the tilt of the Earth's rotation axis varies about its current value of 23.44 degrees from between about 22 degrees and 25 degrees with a period of approximately 41,000 years. Larger tilt creates more extreme seasons---warmer summers and colder winters. A decreasing tilt is thought to bring about ice ages because the milder summers allow ice and snow to last
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This note was uploaded on 12/15/2011 for the course AST AST1002 taught by Professor Emilyhoward during the Fall '10 term at Broward College.