December 21st brings the winter solstice

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December 21st marks the Winter Solstice, meaning the first day of winter for the Northern Hemisphere is officially here. For San Diego, our first day of winter started with a rainy night and cold morning (by our standards). The winter solstice is the day with the fewest hours of sunlight during the year.

The solstice happens every year when the North Pole is tilted it’s farthest from the sun, delivering shorter days and longer nights. During this time, the sun lies directly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere and is closer to the horizon than at any other time during the year.

So how many hours will the sun make an appearance for today? The general rule is the further north you live, the less sunlight you will see. In the off chance you live near the Arctic Circle, you will barely see any sunlight during the solstice. The United States ranges from eight to ten hours of sunlight, with more exposure in the south. In San Diego that means 10 hours of sunlight (6:46 a.m. sunrise to 4:46 p.m. sunset).

Many people think that with less sunlight, the winter solstice also brings the coldest day of the year. However, with the oceans absorbing so much of the sun’s energy, there is a delay between the time when there is the least amount of sun and the cold winter months. While this astronomical event simply marks the first day of winter, many associate other meaning’s to this day. Worldwide, interpretations vary across cultures, but many believe the day brings rebirth, rituals, and celebrations. Many people believe the festive holidays are around this time because of the rebirthing effects of the solstice.

If you notice the daylight hours are passing you by, you know why. Happy first day of winter, everyone! Longer days and springtime will soon be on their way.

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