The short answer: because the Earth is tilted on its axis by 23 degrees. read more
It is man's need to organize things. We saw the changes in nature (due to the processes so nicely explained in another answer) and figured out that they could be neatly grouped into seasons to divide up the year... This got me thinking. Living in Upstate NY USA I am very used to four distinct seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. But what about places where it is more like two, Rainy and Dry for example. Do people still pay much attention to those four seasons or is it more just something on the calendar that doesn't mean all that much?
In answer to DanaTeresa, I moved to Singapore from Britain where we clearly have four seasons (sometimes in one day). Singapore, however, being virtually on the equator has no seasons at all. Ever. The weather forecast everyday is 31 degrees, high humidity and a chance of rain. Bizarrely, though, all the clothing shops here run through their seasonal ranges so that in September, we start getting displays with winter coats in. It's weird.
As to everything else, you do sort of forget what the seasons are and what they're about. It's sad and I miss it very much.
Imagine the sun to be an electric lamp fixed by strings at the center of a very large hoop, laid flatwise, but somewhat tilted. The hoop represents the path taken by the earth round the sun, and the earth is represented by a spherical spinning-top moving along a groove in the upper side of the hoop. Then picture the top making a circuit of the hoop once in a year.
Twice during the year it will be level, or nearly level, with the lamp, and its upper and lower halves be lit equally. These periods are like our spring and autumn. When the top is at the highest point of the hoop, its lower half is lighted more strongly than its upper half. This position corresponds to midsummer in the southern hemisphere of the earth ; and to midwinter in the northern hemisphere. On the other hand, the northern hemisphere has reached midsummer, and the southern hemisphere midwinter, when the top has got to the lowest point of its path.
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