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The Winter Solstice: A Turning Point

20 Dec 2013, 12:08 pm

Winter Solstice


Tomorrow will feature the shortest number of daylight hours out of the entire year in the northern hemisphere.  That may be a depressing thought, but it represents a turning point since from here until June, the days will be getting longer. On the Winter Solstice, the Earth’s axis is pointed away from the sun.


Number of Daylight Hours Around the World Tomorrow

Although tomorrow will have the shortest number of daylight hours, it will not be the earliest sunset time.  This is explained in the the Washington Post: “Due to both the eccentricity (elliptical shape) of Earth’s orbit around the sun, combined with our planet’s 23.5-degree axial tilt, the earliest sunsets of the year in the mid-latitudes fall more than a week before the winter solstice. The simple explanation is that in late December the Earth is nearly at perihelion. This shorter distance from the sun causes Earth to move faster in its orbit, which means it takes the sun less than 24 hours to complete a full circle between its maximum noontime height from one day to the next.”

Gretchen Mishek

2 responses to “The Winter Solstice: A Turning Point

  1. Thank you for explaining why the sunsets get later even before the solstice but the days keep getting shorter. My wife and I just noticed this on her phone’s sunrise/sunset app that sunrise was getting later faster than sunset was getting earlier. Until this year, I never knew that and did not know why. WN rocks!

  2. Gretchen: I’m a big fan, but, given you have an advanced degree in meteorology, I would like to read your explanation, not one from a newspaper. (Nicely footnoted, however.) 🙂

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