Winter solstice means winter is officially here in the northern hemisphere
Winter has (officially) arrived.
With much of the US grappling with very cold temperatures and heavy snowstorms, Wednesday marks the winter solstice – the astronomical beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere.
The astronomical beginning of winter means that the northern hemisphere is tilted by about 23.5 degrees at its farthest point from the sun. Tilting away from the sun means it’s the shortest day of the year, but there’s good news on the horizon for those who desire longer days.
The date of the winter solstice varies from year to year and can be anywhere between December 20th and 23rd, but the 21st and 22nd are the most common dates.
Here’s what you should know about this year’s winter solstice:
What is a solstice?
A solstice is when the earth’s axis, north or south, tilts as far as it comes closest to the sun. This signals the changing of the seasons depending on whether you are in the northern or southern hemisphere. The winter solstice means winter in the north, while summertime means summer in the south, as their inclination is closest to the sun.
When the summer solstice occurs in June, the roles are reversed.
We also have equinoxes – March “Spring” and September “Autumn” – when day and night are of equal length but signal the changing of the seasons.
When is the winter solstice?
The winter solstice occurs at the same time no matter where you are in the northern hemisphere, which will be around 4:48 p.m. ET according to the US Naval Observatory and Time and Date.
At this time, the sun’s rays are directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, a latitude that orbits the earth in the southern hemisphere.
How long will winter last?
Punxsutawney Phil has no say in the astronomical timing of winter.
Winter lasts from the winter solstice to the March equinox, which usually lasts about 89 days. The equinox of March 2023 is on March 20, which means that this winter will be 89 days long.
Is the winter solstice the coldest day on earth?
Although this marks the official start of winter, most of the US experiences its lowest temperatures in January because the Earth needs time to cool, which takes about a month. It is similar to the summer solstice in that the US sees its highest temperatures in July and August, although it occurs in June.
Does the winter solstice mean the days are getting longer?
If you hate it getting dark so early, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Although most places do not have their latest sunrise or earliest sunset on the winter solstice, it is the shortest day of the year, ie the day with the least daylight.
Starting Thursday, the days will get longer and the nights shorter with each passing day. The longer days culminate with the summer solstice, also known as “the longest day”.
Contributor: Doyle Rice
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.