Bundle up, it’s officially here! Today, Wednesday December 21st is the first day of winter. This is also known as the winter solstice for citizens living north of the equator. (Solstices south of the equator are opposite— therefore, their December 21st is a summer solstice.)
So what does winter solstice mean? The change of the seasons is a wonderful part of the year and an amazing part of the world’s natural cycle, but how and why does it happen?
We’re here to break it down.
Here are some fun facts about Winter Solstice:
- Besides being the first day of the season, winter solstice is also the shortest day of the year.
- Earth orbits around the sun, on a tilted axis, so during the months from September to March, the northern hemisphere gets less exposure to the sun in a day.
- Although it’s the shortest day of year, the exact number of hours of sunlight you will get depends on where you live. The further north you are, the less sunlight you will get. For example:
- Boston and Chicago will have 9 hours of daylight.
- Washington DC will have 9.5 hours of daylight.
- Atlanta will have 10 hours of daylight.
- Alaska will have around 3 hours of sunlight.
- Even though it’s the shortest day of the year, it doesn’t mean that you will experience the earliest sunset or latest sunrise of the year. Again, this depends on where you live. In Washington D.C. the earliest sunset happened on December 6. D.C’s latest sunrise will occur on January 6.
- Despite having the least amount of daylight, winter solstice is not the coldest day of the year due to something called “seasonal lag”. The ocean is still holding absorbed sunlight from the summer months at this time. It releases it slowly over time. Therefore, there is a delay between the days of the least sun and when the air temperatures are truly the coldest.
We hope this helped gain some insight on the marvelous winter solstice that is occurring today! For more information and fun facts about the winter solstice see Vox.com.