Today's the Winter Solstice - the year's shortest day

December 21, 2017


Today, Thursday, December 21, marks the official start of the winter season here in the northern hemisphere and is also the shortest day of the year - the day with the least amount of sunlight. After today, each day grows a bit longer until we reach the summer solstice in June 2018.


Here are some winter solstice facts to ponder today - possibly with the help of some warm mulled cider:


What is the winter solstice, exactly?


The winter solstice is an astronomical event, when the Earth tilts to a position where the northern hemisphere is farthest away from the sun, causing less light to reach that part of the planet.


I like to be precise. Can you provide me with the specific time the solstice starts?


This year, the winter solstice arrives at 11:28 a.m. (Eastern time) on Dec. 21. For people in the northern hemisphere, Dec. 21 will be the shortest day and longest night of 2017, with exactly nine hours, 15 minutes and 18 seconds of daylight in New York City, 9 hours, 15 minutes and 9 seconds in Newark, N.J., and exactly 9 hours and 20 minutes in Philadelphia. The sun will rise at 7:16 a.m. and set at 4:31 p.m. in the Big Apple, rise at 7:17 a.m. and set at 4:32 p.m. in Newark, and rise at 7:18 a.m. and set at 4:38 p.m. in Philly.


How about all those folks in the southern hemisphere - what's going to happen there?


For people in the southern hemisphere, Dec. 21 will be the longest day and shortest night of the year, the exact opposite of what's occurring in the northern hemisphere. This will be the summer solstice for people in the southern hemisphere.


It's been pretty cold. Hasn't winter already started?


Sort of.

In the weather world, meteorologists and climatologists consider Dec. 1 to be the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere, and they consider the first day of spring to be March 1.The so-called "meteorological seasons" run three full months and are based on the annual temperature cycle instead of on the earth's rotation around the sun. Because December, January and February tend to be the coldest three months of the year for us, weather agencies base their winter climate records and seasonal forecasts on those three months.


Huh. Do people celebrate the winter solstice? How can I get an invite?


Each year, the winter solstice is marked by cultural festivals and pagan celebrations in different parts of the world. The most famous celebration takes place at the historic Stonehenge monument in England, and smaller celebrations are held in some cities and towns across the United States and Canada. Some Australians commemorate their winter solstice (in June) by taking a nude dip into the Derwent River, which tends to be frigid at that time of the year.


Tomorrow the days begin to grow steadily longer culminating in the next longest day of the year, the summer solstice on June 21, 2018. If you are a sun lover, things are definitely looking up and we'll be back in summer before you know it.


facts compiled by First day of winter 2017: 5 facts about the winter solstice, shortest day of year (12/21/17) Posted December 21, 2017 at 05:15 AM | Updated December 21, 2017 at 05:16 AM



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