Here Comes The Sun


Today must be the coldest day of the year.  OK – I admit I am usually somewhere south of Fort Lauderdale during the January-March time frame, so I may not have a perfect memory of last winter, but it is COLD this morning.  The only good news is that today the sun begins setting later in the day.

I know what you are thinking – this isn’t the shortest day of the year!  You would be right, the winter solstice occurs on December 21 or 22 each year, however that doesn’t mean that the sun sets the earliest on the winter solstice.

This is due simply to the fact that the sun is rising later (and the rate at which it changes is higher than the rate at which is sets.)

Taking a look at Annapolis, for example, the time of sunrise gets pushed back 4 minutes from 7:16 a.m. on Dec. 12 to 7:20 a.m. on Dec 18. The time of sunset, however, only changes by 2 minutes, going from 4:44 p.m. on Dec. 12 to 4:46 p.m. on Dec. 18.  More evening sunlight!

Length of day Solar noon
Date Sunrise Sunset This day Difference Time Altitude Distance
(million mi)
Dec 12, 2013 7:16 AM 4:44 PM 9h 28m 24s − 35s 12:00 Noon 27.9° 91.520
Dec 13, 2013 7:16 AM 4:44 PM 9h 27m 52s − 31s 12:00 Noon 27.9° 91.509
Dec 14, 2013 7:17 AM 4:45 PM 9h 27m 24s − 28s 12:01 PM 27.8° 91.499
Dec 15, 2013 7:18 AM 4:45 PM 9h 27m 00s − 24s 12:01 PM 27.8° 91.490
Dec 16, 2013 7:18 AM 4:45 PM 9h 26m 39s − 20s 12:02 PM 27.7° 91.481
Dec 17, 2013 7:19 AM 4:45 PM 9h 26m 22s − 16s 12:02 PM 27.7° 91.473
Dec 18, 2013 7:20 AM 4:46 PM 9h 26m 09s − 13s 12:03 PM 27.7° 91.465

After the December 21, the opposite occurs with the rate at which sunset times become later in the day being higher than the rate at which the sunrise time becomes later in the day. As a result, the days become longer.

During the middle or late part of January, depending on your latitude, the sun will start rising earlier in the mornings, allowing the days to become even longer.  It won’t be long until there is enough light for afterwork sunset cruises and Thursday Night Racing!

The winter solstice happens when the Earth’s axis is tilted the farthest away from the sun. This year in Annapolis, that will occur at 12:11 p.m. EST on Dec. 21.

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