Most students think that it is cold in the winter because the Sun is further away from the Earth

Earth and Space


Likewise, it is warmer in the summer because the Earth is closest to the Sun at that time. Of course, students don’t take into account the idea of summer occurring in other parts of the world during winter.

Diagnostic Resources

The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.

For more information, see the University of York BEST website.

Resources to address this

  • Why is it hotter in the summer than the winter?  (11-14)

    Ref - ES04 TL05

    By far the most common response to explaining the seasons is in terms of distance from the Sun. This is based on the common-sense reasoning that if you go closer to a glowing source, then you become warmer.

    Unfortunately it's on the wrong track!  This resource explains why.

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Illari, L. et al., () Exploiting Laboratory Experiments in the Teaching of Meteorology, Oceanography, and Climate, American Meteorological Society.

    Review sheet

  • Trumper, R., () A cross-age study of junior high school students'conceptions of basic astronomy concepts, International Journal of Science Education, 23 (11)

    1111- 1123.

    Review sheet

  • Phillips, W., () Earth science misconceptions, The Science Teacher,


    Review sheet

  • Cox, M., Steegen, A., and De Cock, M., () How Aware Are Teachers of Students’ Misconceptions in Astronomy? A Qualitative Analysis in Belgium, Science Education International, 27 (2)


    Review sheet

  • Dunlop, J., () How children observe the universe, Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, 200 (17)


    Review sheet

  • Osborne, J., Wadsworth, P., Black, P. and Meadows, J., () The earth in space: Primary space project research report, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

    Review sheet

  • Barrier, R. M., () Astronomical Misconceptions, The Physics Teacher, 48,


    Review sheet

  • Bogina, M.R. and Roberts, B.R. () The Use of Haiku and Portfolio Entry to Teach the Change of Seasons, Journal of Geoscience Education, 53 (5)


    Review sheet

  • Sarioğlan, A. B. and Küçüközer, H., () From Elementary to University Students' Ideas About Causes of the Seasons, Journal of Turkish science education, DOI: 10.12973/tused.10137a.

    Review sheet

  • Galano, S. et al., () Developing the use of visual representations to explain basic astronomy phenomena, Physical review physics education research, 14 (1):010145.

    Review sheet

  • Lee, V. R., () How Different Variants of Orbit Diagrams Influence Student Explanations of the Seasons, Science Education, 94,


    Review sheet

  • G. Sharp, J., () Children's astronomical beliefs: a preliminary study of Year 6 children in south‐west England, International Journal of Science Education, 18 (6)


    Review sheet

  • Slater, E. V., Morris, J. E., & McKinnon, D., () Astronomy alternative conceptions in preadolescent students in Western Australia, International Journal of Science Education, 40 (17)


    Review sheet

  • Baxter, J., () Children's understanding of familiar astronomical events, International Journal of Science Education, 11 (5)


    Review sheet

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