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At multiple points in Avatar: The Last Airbender, the timing of the summer and winter solstices is important. Every time they are mentioned, they are specifically referred to as the "summer" and "winter" solstices rather than some other name. But summer in the northern hemisphere is winter in the southern hemisphere. So in the real world, "summer solstice" could refer to either the solstice in June (in the northern hemisphere) or the solstice in December (in the southern hemisphere).

When they say "the summer solstice," which summer solstice are they referring to? The summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, or the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere? It is rarely obvious which hemisphere they mean, because:

  • The Gaang spends a significant amount of time in both hemispheres.
  • The Fire Nation looks to be pretty equatorial (which incidentally raises the question of how the winter solstice can make the sun line up with Roku's statue on the crescent shaped island given that the seasons don't change much near the equator, but let's ask one question at a time).
  • The Earth and Water Nations both have substantial portions in each hemisphere.
  • The Western Air Temple appears to be in the northern hemisphere, while the other two appear to be in the southern hemisphere.
  • They don't appear to mean a different hemisphere each time; the "summer" and "winter" solstices consistently refer to the same dates regardless of where the Gaang happens to be this episode.
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    Perhaps the seasons on the Avatar world are the result of an eccentric orbit rather than axial tilt, so the entire planet experiences seasons in synchrony. – Micah Sep 15 '18 at 5:14
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    @Micah: That implies annual periods of global warming and cooling, of far greater magnitude than those we experience on Earth. I'd like to see some canon evidence before making such a wild assumption. Also, that makes Roku's statue even more baffling. – Kevin Sep 15 '18 at 5:17
  • This is another one of those things where you could just say: You are overthinking a fantasy cartoon. It isn't real. Same answer as: Meh, magic? Try to enjoy the story without analyzing every plot hole. – Dúthomhas Sep 15 '18 at 6:25
  • @Dúthomhas: If the question was about, say, Eragon, I might agree with you (who cares which hemisphere it takes place in?). But Avatar deliberately makes a huge deal out of the seasons. – Kevin Sep 15 '18 at 6:54
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    @Ummdustry: Omashu is equatorial. Kyoshi is well south of the equator. And the Earth Kingdom has one capital, Ba Sing Se. – Kevin Sep 15 '18 at 20:35
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If I had to guess I would say that the Northern Hemisphere is preferential for seasons.The series heavily implies that Aang masters one element per planetary season, mastering water in the winter, earth in the spring, and fire in the summer, which is also kinda poetic as those seasons also correspond to their elements.

The wiki confirms that Aang awoke from the iceberg in the Fall of 99AG (99 years after the Air Nomad Genocide), but that doesn't actually tell us whose fall it is. The first major reference to the Winter Solstice comes in the two-parter "The Winter Solstice" while the gang is in Hei-Bai's forest, later journeying to the Crescent Island, both of which on the map of the World of Avatar appear to be almost exactly on the equator (perhaps a couple of degrees north of it), creating further ambiguities. It should be noted that it is only after this episode that Aang really starts to learn waterbending, as Katara doesn't steal the waterbending scroll until the episode following this. So I think it's safe to say that Aang learns waterbending in the Winter of the Northern Hemisphere.

The episode "The Avatar and the Firelord", set on the summer solstice, also begins at a spot very close to the equator, although perhaps slightly north of it: Roku's Island. In that episode, Aang had been traveling south from north of the equator to get there (as his last confirmed location was in the episode "The Beach", although the island's location in terms of equatorial position is very ambiguous. That said, when he recieved his vision from Avatar Roku making reference to the approaching summer solstice, he was certainly in the Northern Hemisphere.

When Aang starts learning firebending from Zuko, it is at the Western Air Temple, far north of the equator, supporting the theory that the northern hemisphere is preferential, if in fact he does indeed learn one element per calendar season as the creators have suggested.

In the series finale, set at the 'end of the summer', the group travels extensively around the world, probably more so than in any other single episode, but it begins on Ember Island, north of the equator.

It should also be noted that nights and days seem to be of equal length in both the northern and southern water tribes, regardless of the time of year, which is shown in Legend of Korra as well. Ba Sing Se is in the Northern Hemisphere as well, and really seems to be the center of the world in terms of diplomacy and global affairs, at least in the original series. The fire nation capital is pretty much on the equator, and the Air Nomads and Water Tribes both have equal land in the northern and southern hemispheres, but overall the World of Avatar, like our world, seems to have more land in the Northern Hemisphere. So that's what I'm gonna go with. The solstice episodes both happen in what we can presume is the Northern Hemisphere, as do most episodes which make reference to the season, and that hemisphere seems more central to the world, with Ba Sing Se and the more important and influential water tribe both north of the equator.

  • Well reasoned. Aang broke from the iceburg in the Southern Hemisphere. Still going to say that ppl are too much of trying to figure minutiae of reality into a story, though... – Dúthomhas Feb 20 at 4:42

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