Winter Solstice Fun Facts

There...wasn't that interesting! Well, it was for me, but I admit that I'm a bit of a science geek.

Have a great day!


Good morning everyone,

Yesterday was warm and sunny and today will be warm and rainy. It'll clear up for the long weekend-but it'll be a lot cooler-and then we can expect some rain again the beginning of next week.

So, it's too late for Japan, but today is the winter solstice back home...

Why do we have a winter solstice, anyway?

Most people know this one. Earth orbits around the sun on a tilted axis (likely because our planet collided with some other massive object billions of years ago, back when it was still being formed).

So between September and March, Earth’s Northern Hemisphere gets less exposure to direct sunlight over the course of a day. The rest of the year, the north gets more direct sunlight and the Southern Hemisphere gets less. It’s the reason for the seasons:

earth axis 

In the Northern Hemisphere, "peak" sunlight usually occurs on June 20, 21, or 22 of any given year. That’s the summer solstice. By contrast, the Southern Hemisphere reaches peak sunlight on December 21, 22, or 23 and the north hits peak darkness — that’s our winter solstice.

Technically speaking, the winter solstice occurs when the sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn, or 23.5° south latitude. Like so:

  

In 2016, the winter solstice will occur at exactly 5:54 am EST on Wednesday, December 21.

How many hours of sunlight will I get on Wednesday?

That depends on where you live. The further north you are, the less sunlight you’ll get during the solstice — and the longer the night will be.

Washington DC will get about 9.5 hours of daylight — and 14.5 hours of darkness.

On the off chance you live near the Arctic Circle, you’ll barely get any daylight during the solstice (if you live north of the circle, you’ll get none). The time lapse below shows the eerie scene in Fairbanks, Alaska, which only gets three hours of sunlight on the solstice — the sun basically skims the horizon for a brief while and then vanishes:

Is the winter solstice the coldest day of the year?

Warm Temperatures Persist In Central Europe

Also not usually! It’s true that the Northern Hemisphere gets the least direct sunlight on the winter solstice (which is officially the first day of winter). But the coldest months are yet to come — usually in January or February, depending on where you live.

A big reason for this “seasonal lag” is that the Earth’s massive oceans absorb much of the sun’s energy and release it slowly, over time. So there’s a delay between when there’s the least sun and when the air temperatures are actually coldest. The same thing happens in summer — there’s a delay between when the days are the longest (the summer solstice in June) and when the hottest months are (usually July or August).

This seasonal lag varies greatly from place to place — during the summer, it’s pretty extreme in San Francisco, which is surrounded by water on three sides, and where temperatures don’t typically peak until September. Likewise, places distant from large bodies of water, like Iowa, can often see sharper swings in temperature than places like Rome that are surrounded by ocean.

Actually, there were some other interesting facts, but I decided not to add them, because they were a bit technical and difficult to understand.

I thought they were interesting anyway, but I'm a bit of a nerd...I find that kind of stuff pretty cool! Sorry if it was a bit boring for you...

Have a great day!

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