Northern Hemisphere’s ‘Shortest’ Day of The Year

Winter Solstice is upon us…

The winter solstice is a single moment in time when the Sun is exactly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere. This year that moment occurs on December 21st at 1044UTC or 4:44AM CDT.

A common misunderstanding with the winter/summer solstice regards the Sun’s distance from Earth. Distance does not create the seasons, the tilt of the Earth does. Earth’s 23.5° tilt is the reason each hemisphere receives various amounts of sunlight from season to season. The winter solstice marks the day the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the Sun.

Graphic via

The Earth revolves around the Sun on an elliptical path throughout the year, allowing the distance between the Earth and the Sun to fluctuate. You would think the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere means the Earth is furthest from the Sun because it’s colder… right? WRONG! Earth is closest to the sun around the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice, known as the Perihelion. This year, the Perihelion falls on January 4th, 2017.

While the winter solstice is occurring in the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice is happening simultaneously in the Southern Hemisphere.  The shortest days, in terms of sunlight, are observed north of the equator and have less than 12 hours of daylight. The longest days of the year are recorded south of the equator.

Places north of the Arctic Circle receive zero sunlight on the winter solstice.

While we consider this day to be the shortest day of the year, it’s important to remember that the length of day is not changing but the rather the amount of daylight.

Less daylight? Yes! Less hours in the day? No. clipart-thumbs-up-happy-smiley-51eLA0-clipart.png