« Forecasters: An icy week, then a rainy Christmas | Main | View from orbit: Snowstorm paints region white »

December 21, 2009

Okay: NOW it's winter; solstice arrives at 12:47 p.m.

It may have looked like winter to you for several days. But officially, if you buy the tradition, winter arrived today - Monday, Dec. 21 - at 12:47 p.m. - with the winter solstice.

Winter solstice - AP PhotoThe winter solstice is the moment when the "sun stands still" - from the Latin "sol" and "stistere." That is, it's the time when the sun stops its apparent drift southward in the sky, and begins to rise and set a bit farther north each day, headed toward spring and the summer solstice in June.

In fact, the solstice occurs at the moment in the Earth's annual orbit around the sun, when the Northern Hemisphere reaches its maximum tilt away from the sun - 23 degrees, 26 minutes from the perpendicular. At the same moment, the Southern Hemisphere is enjoying its Summer Solstice, its longest day and the start of the southern summer.

In many cultures, the winter solstice was celebrated as mid-winter, not the beginning. And it made sense. Today is the day with the shortest period of daylight. From here, the days get longer, and brighter. We have already passed the date of the earliest sunset (Dec. 7), and on Jan. 4 we will note the latest sunrise. But from this moment, on balance, the days are getting longer. It's all good from here.

So cheer up and shovel.

(AP PHOTO/Chris Young - English Druids celebrate the 2005 winter solstice at Stonehenge)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 12:14 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Events


Dear Mr Roylance,

I fear I must correct your statement that NOW its winter. More accurately, NOW its officially midwinter. The Winter Solstice (Yule) marks the exact midpoint of seasonal winter on the Celtic or lunar calendar - not the beginning of winter. For a farmer who knows the land and the seasons, this is much more accurate. According to the ancient Celtic tradition, winter begins on Samhain (Nov. 1st)., despite what we may think.

So happy mid-winter. May the sun return to warm you through and through!

Dr. Wendy

FR: Thanks. But did you even read the post?

Holy cow! Did you see this??

Are they really calling for icy mix xmas morning? If so any idea of the duration? We are suppose to visit the in-laws and they are 35-40 minutes away from us,

FR: Yes. They're not sure yet how long the mix might last east of the mountains. The latest forecast says it should change to all-rain after noon. Watch for flooded roadways as mild air and rain melt the snowpack. "Turn Around; Don't Drown."

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

Sign up for FREE weather alerts*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for weather text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Maryland Weather Center

Area Weather Stations
Resources and Sun coverage
• Weather news

• Readers' photos

• Data from the The Sun's weather station

• 2011 stargazers' calendar

• Become a backyard astronomer in five simple steps

• Baltimore Weather Archive
Daily airport weather data for Baltimore from 1948 to today

• National Weather Service:
Sterling Forecast Office

• Capital Weather Gang:
Washington Post weather blog

• CoCoRaHS:
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. Local observations by volunteers

• Weather Bug:
Webcams across the state

• National Data Buoy Center:
Weather and ocean data from bay and ocean buoys

• U.S. Drought Monitor:
Weekly maps of drought conditions in the U.S.

• USGS Earthquake Hazards Program:
Real-time data on earthquakes

• Water data:
From the USGS, Maryland

• National Hurricane Center

• Air Now:
Government site for air quality information

• NWS Climate Prediction Center:
Long-term and seasonal forecasts

• U.S. Climate at a Glance:
NOAA interactive site for past climate data, national, state and city

• Clear Sky Clock:
Clear sky alerts for stargazers


• Hubblesite:
Home page for Hubble Space Telescope

• Heavens Above:
Everything for the backyard stargazer, tailored to your location

• NASA Eclipse Home Page:
Centuries of eclipse predictions

• Cruise Critic: Hurricane Zone:
Check to see how hurricanes may affect your cruise schedule

• Warming World:
NASA explains the science of climate change with articles, videos, “data visualizations,” and space-based imagery.

• What on Earth:
NASA blog on current research at the space agency.
Most Recent Comments
Blog updates
Recent updates to news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Charm City Current
Stay connected