4
$\begingroup$

While working on the cosmology of a flat world, I came up with a satisfactory arrangement that would result in the following:

  • Summer: Short, hot days and long, dark, hot nights.
  • Winter: Long, cold days and short, dim, freezing nights.

The mechanics behind why or how this could be the case are unimportant, as are all the pitfalls of flat worlds in general. It is safe to assume that, locally, things are reasonably Earth-like--1g gravity, normal atmosphere at sea level, etc. What kind of impact would this sort of seasonal cycle have on vegetation and wildlife? The societal impact would be interesting too, but I'm mainly focused on the plants and animals.

$\endgroup$
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I am not sure that would be physical. Long days are hot because there is longer solar irradiation $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Jul 9 at 8:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I all depends very much on how long is long, how short is short, how hot is hot and how cold is cold. For example, a short night in Leningrad (= Sankt Petersburg) is two hours; a short night in Bucharest is nine hours; a short night in Alexandria of Egypt is eleven hours. A very hot day in London is 30° C (86° F), when Englishmen die of heatstroke; the same temperature is just about average for July and August in Bucharest, where a very hot day would be something like 40° C (104° F) or above. It also depends very much on the pattern of precipitation, rain and snow. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 9 at 11:25
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica Are you sure? I thought it had more to do with the angle at which the sun’s rays strike the planet (head-on = hotter, at-an-angle = cooler). $\endgroup$ – Franklin Pezzuti Dyer Jul 9 at 12:53
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This very much depends on why summer is summer and winter is winter here. If temperature is determined by stellar irradiation, then short summer days must be burning hot, sunlight would be intolerable to most known vegetation. But if summer temperatures are driven up by something else, there are more possibilities. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 9 at 16:45
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @whlk So the source of summer heat is sunlight? Then, as I said, daytime light would be very intense. Vegetation would dry out, and animals would be hiding in caves. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Jul 10 at 7:58
2
$\begingroup$

Hot days and hot nights implies to me that much of the planet is in a humid environment with a strong greenhouse effect. Normally, dry air and soil heated by the sun during the day will lose most of that heat back out to space during night, but this loss can be slowed by a stronger greenhouse effect or higher local humidity (water vapor is great at holding heat, and when it condenses back into dew it even releases heat!). One good way to explain a worldwide high humidity would be having much smaller continents than we do on Earth, say by scattered islands in a large ocean (expect strong ground-level winds at nightfall and in the morning, in this case). The best explanation for stable warm temperatures is regular intense sunlight, but temperature could also be increased by, say, increased geothermal activity, or tidal heating (does that work with a flat world? who knows!). If we assume that sunlight during the summer day is quite intense (but with about the same amount of UV light that we get on Earth), plants with access to water should be well adapted for rapid photosynthesis.

During the winter, trees and other plants would be able to photosynthesize only for the portion of the time that their tissues were above freezing. Add in that the best explanation for lower temperatures is reduced solar radiation (and not something weird, like winds blowing off into the void at the edge of the map only during the winter), and you have a situation where plant growth is stifled both by temperature and by solar radiation. Certain organisms on Earth are adapted to one or the other (diatoms can continue to photosynthesize below -4 degrees Celsius, and plants in the rainforest understory can survive with just a few % of full sunlight intensity), but maintaining the adaptations for photosynthesizing in both freezing conditions and low light may be too costly for many organisms to adapt for it. Compare plants in Earth's arctic and subarctic regions - while it's theoretically possible for them to adapt to photosynthesize during part of the winter period, most plants in these regions are active during the summer.

The coastal waters are probably as full of life as they are on Earth, but you might expect vast areas with low photosynthetic production in the centers of oceans, given there's no Coriolis effect nor north-south temperature disparity to drive currents and redistribute nutrients. You could still see some ocean currents as the seasons change, driven by the land masses being warmer (at the end of summer) or colder (at the end of winter) than the water.

For the climate scheme I propose, with humid summers with high solar radiation and cold winters with low insolation, you probably see something similar to the temperate coniferous/leafy mixed forests of Earth, swapped out for plains on highlands and in soils with low nutrient availability. Areas sheltered from the sea by mountain ranges would look much like Earth's deserts, but there probably aren't too many of these if we assume the land masses are small and humidity is high. Precipitation is likely to be evenly distributed along most coastlines, without the prevailing winds that we get from Earth's rotation and without a disparity in sunlight amount between a northern and southern hemisphere.

Most prey species probably either go into a mode of low activity during one of the seasons, or change their coat colors to be better able to hide in the snow/vegetation. Prey are probably mostly nocturnal (given that the summer is the best time to acquire food, and the summer nights are so long), though this could change in environments with high visibility where being able to outrun a predator is a better bet than being able to hide from them. It'd be hard to determine much more about the animal life in this world from the seasonal scheme, but anything that exists on Earth could probably exist in this world, as well.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Reverse plant cycle

Sunlight is important to plants (photosynthesis), so assuming that your world has plants, I imagine that they would be most active in winter, where the days are long. Their leaves might be able to survive freezing, like evergreens, or they pull in their leaves at night, similar to how many flowers close at night. With more active plant life, wildlife is also likely to be more active. Animals are likely to be wooly or have insulating fat layers against the cold.

During the summer, fungoid lifeforms like mushrooms, which don't need sunlight, may thrive, assuming it is moist enough. Decideous trees may shed their leaves to conserve energy for the winter, in an inverse cycle of what we see on Earth. Animals will shed their fur and burn fat layers and eat fungus, or they might hibernate through the dark summers.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Evolution can do some surprising things, but I suspect that plants would fall into two groups:

  • Summer-growth ones, with huge amounts of leaves and little in the way of support for them, grabbing as much light energy as possible for storage in bulbs or roots. They might well produce seeds at a different time of year from leaves, if there's a dispersal mechanism available in winter, such as strong winds.

  • Year-round growth ones, with smaller leaves and adaptations to survive freezing, such as needles, or leaves that can be folded up at night.

The animals will be adapted to plant production cycles, so you need to decide on the plants first.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.