Annual cycle

Annual cycle

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In geosciences, an annual cycle is the part of a measured quantity's fluctuation that is attributed to Earth's changing position in orbit
Orbit
In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in space, for example the orbit of a planet around the center of a star system, such as the Solar System...

 over the course of the year. Such quantities might be influenced directly (e.g. incoming solar radiation at a point at the surface) or indirectly (e.g. stratospheric
Stratosphere
The stratosphere is the second major layer of Earth's atmosphere, just above the troposphere, and below the mesosphere. It is stratified in temperature, with warmer layers higher up and cooler layers farther down. This is in contrast to the troposphere near the Earth's surface, which is cooler...

 westerlies
Westerlies
The Westerlies, anti-trades, or Prevailing Westerlies, are the prevailing winds in the middle latitudes between 30 and 60 degrees latitude, blowing from the high pressure area in the horse latitudes towards the poles. These prevailing winds blow from the west to the east, and steer extratropical...

 and easterlies
Polar easterlies
The polar easterlies are the dry, cold prevailing winds that blow from the high-pressure areas of the polar highs at the north and south poles towards low-pressure areas within the Westerlies at high latitudes...

 over the winter and summer hemispheres, respectively) by orbital position.

The annual cycle is commonly estimated from observational data or model output by taking the average of all Januaries, all Februaries, and so forth. If the observational record is long enough and conditions are stationary (i.e. there is no significant long-term trend), a meaningful annual cycle will result that can be used to calculate an anomaly time series
Anomaly time series
In atmospheric sciences and some other applications of statistics, an anomaly time series is the time series of deviations of a quantity from some mean. Similarly a standardized anomaly series contains values of deviations divided by a standard deviation...

.

(Note that grouping data according to the months in the Gregorian calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

 makes an implicit assumption that the annual cycle in question is the vernal equinox tropical year
Tropical year
A tropical year , for general purposes, is the length of time that the Sun takes to return to the same position in the cycle of seasons, as seen from Earth; for example, the time from vernal equinox to vernal equinox, or from summer solstice to summer solstice...

 followed by that calendar. However, the annual cycle for some phenomena may be a different kind of year; see the seasonal year
Seasonal year
The seasonal year is the time between successive recurrences of a seasonal event such as the flooding of a river, the migration of a species of bird, or the flowering of a species of plant....

article for discussion.)