Winter arrives Thursday; shortest day of the year
Published 10:58 am Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Thursday marks the first day of winter for the Northern Hemisphere, bringing the shortest day and longest night of the year. It’s made somewhat brighter by the holiday lights and the season of cheer.
The winter solstice is when we experience the fewest hours of daylight throughout the year – also known as the shortest day of the year. For the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs annually on December 21 or 22. In the Southern Hemisphere, the shortest day of the year happens in June.
The phenomenon occurs due to Earth’s tilted axis, which makes it so that half of the planet is pointed away from the sun. During the solstice, it reaches the farthest from the sun that it can get. This means that the sun’s path across the sky is at its lowest point, causing Earth to receive less sunlight and warmth on that day, according to NASA.
Because the Earth rotates on a tilt, the winter solstice occurs when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted the furthest away from the sun, which will occur at 10:27 p.m. ET.
Although the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, you don’t have to worry about it being the coldest. Many factors dictate the temperature of a location, including altitude, snow cover, and large-scale weather patterns, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Because there are so many factors, it’s hard to predict which day of the year will be the coldest.
To observe the effects of the solstice, stand outside on December 21 at noon and look at your shadow. It’s the longest shadow you’ll cast all year, notes the Old Farmer’s Almanac. During the summer solstice – the longest day of the year – you’ll barely see your shadow at all.
On the bright side, each day after the solstice in the Northern Hemisphere will get more daylight, until the summer solstice on June 20, 2024.
As winter unfolds, the anticipation of longer days and the gradual increase of warmth and sunlight prompt consideration of how the changing seasons affect all life.
There is a lot of folklore associated with winter. Among the proverbs shared by the Old Farmer’s Almanac are:
– Deep snow in winter; tall grain in summer. – Estonian proverb
– Visits should be short, like a winter’s day.
– A fair day in winter is the mother of a storm. – English proverb
– Summer comes with a bound; winter comes yawning.
– Onion skins very thin, mild winter coming in.
Winter inspires both joy and woe. Some people can’t wait for the cooler weather, snow, skiing, and ice skating, curling up by a fire, and the holiday spirit. You’ll notice a peaceful silence when you walk through the woods – a muffled quiet.
Other people dislike the colder temperatures, snow, and shorter days, especially when it gets dark at 5 o’clock in the evening. In colder regions, winter often means shoveling, snow blowing, dealing with bad roads, and sometimes unbearable temperatures. In warmer regions, the winter temperatures become very mild or cool, and places such as Florida fill up with people escaping the harshness of a northern winter.
But, remember every day is a day closer to spring, when the days will become warmer and longer.