Diurnal cycle

Definition of Diurnal Cycle

The diurnal cycle denotes a pattern recurring every 24 hours, mirroring the Earth's full rotation on its own axis. Derived from the Latin term "diurnus," translating to daily, this cycle is utilized across several disciplines, including meteorology, physiology, and astronomy, to illustrate phenomena that exhibit a roughly 24-hour rhythm.

Diurnal Cycle in Meteorology

In meteorological terms, the diurnal cycle delineates the daily variations in temperature and other atmospheric conditions. Notably, afternoon temperatures usually rise to their highest levels due to peak solar radiation, and descend to their lowest just before dawn. The cycle also dictates variations in wind patterns, humidity levels, and the emergence and dissipation of fog and dew.

Diurnal Cycle in Biology

Biological entities, comprising numerous plants and animals, exhibit diurnal characteristics or physiological adaptations. Certain animal species are diurnal, indicating that their activities are predominantly during daylight and they rest at night. Concurrently, multiple plant species respond to the diurnal light and darkness cycle by opening and closing their flowers or leaves, a phenomenon identified as photoperiodism.

Diurnal Cycle in Astronomy

In astronomical studies, the diurnal cycle pertains to the perceived daily movement of stars encircling the Earth, an occurrence attributable to the Earth's axial rotation. The cycle accounts for the ascent and descent of celestial bodies.

Human Response to the Diurnal Cycle

Human beings, similar to numerous other organisms, demonstrate a biological reaction to the diurnal cycle. This is prominently seen in the sleep-wake cycle, but is also evident in daily changes in hormone production, body temperature, and cognitive performance. This biological adaptation to the diurnal cycle is termed the circadian rhythm.
Updated: Jun 5, 2023
Published by: Weather U.S. | About Us