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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
        

Comments

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!

Cheerfully,
Dr. Wendy

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

Holy cow! Did you see this??
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=41979&src=eorss-nh

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."

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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
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