Behold a Winter Solstice


The Earth’s solstices come twice a year. For the Northern Hemisphere, the summer (June) solstice occurs around June 20-21, and the winter (December) solstice happens around Dec. 21-22.

At the solstice, the Sun’s path appears farthest north or south, depending on which half of the planet you are on. Seasons change on Earth because the planet is slightly tilted on its axis as it travels around the Sun.

Earth’s axis may be imagined as an imaginary pole going right through the center of our planet from “top” to “bottom.” Earth spins around this pole, making one complete turn each day. That is why we have day and night.

This image was taken with the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) on EUMETSAT’s Meteosat-9 captured this view of Earth from geosynchronous orbit, and shows how sunlight fell on the Earth on Dec. 21, 2010. 

Image Credit: NASALast Updated: Dec 21, 2021Editor: Yvette Smith

4.8 17 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
December 23, 2021 2:14 am

Super photo of Amundsen-Scott in bright sunshine at the South Pole at the bottom of the Sea Ice link.

December 23, 2021 2:19 am

Shortest day in NH, but the time when the Earth is closest to the sun (perihelion), about 3% closer than annual average, the Sun looks larger if you can see it (taking precautions).
It also means the Earth will be hit by slightly stronger solar radiation.
At this time the Earth moves at the highest angular velocity.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Vuk
December 23, 2021 4:46 am

Vuk, perihelion is Jan 4, 2022.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Tom in Florida
December 23, 2021 5:00 am

Can’t imagine a fortnight makes a huge difference

Reply to  Ben Vorlich
December 23, 2021 6:56 am

If my calculation is correct the distance at the winter solstice is 0.0251% (or 0.00024661 AU) greater than on the 4th Jan 2022.

Reply to  Tom in Florida
December 23, 2021 5:57 am

Hi Tom , nice to hear from you
Yes I know that, both perihelion and aphelion vary up to 3 days , for perihelion Jan 2- Jan 5, but comes Jan 4, not many people would be considering matters astronomical, while yesterday and today are auspicious dates to mention such things. After all I did say  the time when the Earth is closest to the sun (perihelion).
Have a good Xmas

Reply to  Vuk
December 23, 2021 1:26 pm

Perihelion occurs about 15 days later each millennium. The last time it occurred before the austral summer solstice was 1585. Since then the Southern Hemisphere has been getting less sunlight. Correspondingly oceans have been getting less sunlight as they dominate the Southern Hemisphere.

Despite reducing sunlight, oceans are getting warmer because the water cycle, ocean to land, is slowing down. This process will continue for another 10,000 years.

The flip side of more sunlight over land in the northern hemisphere gradually increasing in the boreal summer is that boreal winters will get less sunlight. Freezing conditions will be more severe and last a little longer. Land ice accumulation will increase again.

Reply to  Vuk
December 23, 2021 6:01 am

Hi Vuk.
Can’t you just feel the acceleration pushing us into our chairs?…………

There are people who would believe that statement, quite a few in fact.

Reply to  Philo
December 23, 2021 6:11 am

Just in case someone is not familiar it is the Kepler’s second lawcomment image

Reply to  Vuk
December 23, 2021 6:35 am

Someone might want to cut an elliptical shape in plywood or similar. Put two nails in at some distance, then tie each end of a length of string to the nails, stretch string with a pencil and draw by moving around. Experiment with the distance between the nails and the string length to determine size and curvature of the ellipse.
However, if you are inclined to calculate it all in advance google ellipse formulae

Shanghai Dan
Reply to  Philo
December 23, 2021 8:32 am

That explains my “apparent” weight gain around Christmas, every year.

Loren Wilson
Reply to  Vuk
December 23, 2021 6:41 am

This moderates the temperature in the northern hemisphere since we receive more energy from the sun during our winter and less during our summer. 3% does not sound like a lot but it is ten times the estimated difference in incoming and outgoing energy balance for the planet.

Reply to  Loren Wilson
December 23, 2021 10:24 am

The difference in solar insolation (energy input) is actually about 7% between aphelion and perihelion as insolation goes like the square of the distance. That’s significant and does moderate temperature extremes in the Northern Hemisphere (NH). However, the global average temperature is actually 2.3 degrees Celsius COOLER at perihelion (closest approach). The whole Earth is actually cooler when it’s closest to the sun! Why? Because most of the Earth’s land mass is in the Northern Hemisphere and land absorbs more solar energy than water. This warming and cooling of the Earth’s average temperature every year is usually smoothed out in the global temperature average.

Reply to  meab
December 23, 2021 1:44 pm

land absorbs more solar energy than water

Land overall always loses heat while oceans always gain heat. There is significant transfer of heat from oceans to land. It occurs in that direction every month.

Oceans are also coolest in December and January when their energy uptake is at its maximum because the water cycle speeds up. Currently, December is the month of highest net ocean evaporation – transfer of ocean water to land.

Land does not absorb much heat. It heats up faster and cools down faster. Hence it is warmer when under the sun. There is considerable temperature variation between night and day over land. Hardly any daily variation over oceans.

Despite oceans getting gradually less sunlight as perihelion moves later, they are warming up. The gradually reducing difference in sunlight over land and water is causing the water cycle, ocean to land, to slow down and that leaves more heat in the oceans.

Ocean surfacess are temperature limited. More heat input equates to more evaporation and that can only occur if the atmospheric water gets advected to land. That happens if the land is cooler than the abutting ocean water. The water cycle is at its minimum in June and July:

December 23, 2021 2:22 am

Not another winter solstice.
I blame climate change…_

M Courtney
Reply to  DiggerUK
December 23, 2021 3:46 am

It’s unprecedented, according to journalists.

Reply to  M Courtney
December 23, 2021 1:59 pm

You can make fun of solstices all you want but the fact is that they are becoming more frequent and more severe due to climate change.
By 2100 a winter solstice will happen every day and children just won’t know what an equinox is.

Rod Evans
Reply to  Dmtr
December 24, 2021 1:12 am

Love it, and I’m a non practicing Druid!
It’s a Celtic thing. 😉

Ron Long
Reply to  DiggerUK
December 23, 2021 6:42 am

DiggerUK, check out the old surfer movie “Endless Summer”, then go for it. Frequent flyer miles?

December 23, 2021 3:04 am

Today is 2 seconds longer than yesterday was!

Tom in Florida
Reply to  fretslider
December 23, 2021 4:48 am

To be more accurate, the time between sunrise and sunset is 2 seconds longer.

Reply to  Tom in Florida
December 23, 2021 4:57 am

Vampires everywhere, take note.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  fretslider
December 23, 2021 6:23 am

See my comment below regarding sunrise and sunset times around the winter solstice.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Tom in Florida
December 23, 2021 6:15 am

Darn, I thought time had slowed.

Reply to  Tom in Florida
December 23, 2021 9:12 am

Umm, I’d have to check, it might be from meridian passage to meridian passage. Lessee, sunset has been getting later for a couple weeks, yeah, it wouldn’t be a couple seconds shorter.

Oh, no, the meridian to meridian time is more like 30 seconds a day.

2021 Sutton Mills, Latitude  43.33 Longitude  71.95
 Date Rise  Set Light EqofTm 
Dec 20 7:17A 4:14P 8:58  2:13 
Dec 21 7:17A 4:15P 8:58  1:43 
Dec 22 7:18A 4:15P 8:58  1:14 
Dec 23 7:18A 4:16P 8:58  0:44 
Dec 24 7:19A 4:17P 8:58  0:14 
Dec 25 7:19A 4:17P 8:58 - 0:16 
Dec 26 7:19A 4:18P 8:59 - 0:45 
Reply to  Ric Werme
December 23, 2021 9:21 am

depends on latitude, see more details here
edit: Sorry, I just spotted your reply to Jeff’s and my Jupiter comments , obviously you know far more about it than I’ll ever do.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Ric Werme
December 23, 2021 10:57 am

You will notice at my Long/Lat (Venice FL) the times are thus:
Day Sunrise Sunset Day length
Sun, Dec 19 7:12:49 am 5:41:25 pm 10:28:36
Mon, Dec 20 7:13:20 am 5:41:53 pm 10:28:33
Tue, Dec 21 7:13:50 am 5:42:22 pm 10:28:32
Wed, Dec 22 7:14:20 am 5:42:53 pm 10:28:33
Thu, Dec 23 7:14:48 am 5:43:24 pm 10:28:36
Fri, Dec 24 7:15:14 am 5:43:57 pm 10:28:43
Sat, Dec 25 7:15:40 am 5:44:31 pm 10:28:51
Sun, Dec 26 7:16:04 am 5:45:06 pm 10:29:02
Mon, Dec 27 7:16:28 am 5:45:42 pm 10:29:14

Notice the day length each day is just a few seconds different 12/21 to 12/23 then the sunset times gets later by more seconds each day. Also notice the Sunrise is still later each day and that will continue until around the 2nd week in January.,

Reply to  Ric Werme
December 24, 2021 5:55 am

I should have noted the key column is the Equation of Time, an adjustment to the 24 hour day we use in “mean time” to give “apparent time.” Some sundials designed for the particular lat/long, have styles than include the equation of time and are remarkably accurate.

Michael S. Kelly
December 23, 2021 3:17 am

My wife actually celebrates this day, as it represents the time from which it “only gets better from here.” By which she means that the daylight part of the day stops getting shorter, and starts getting longer. I’ve come to agree with her over the years.

Doug Huffman
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
December 23, 2021 3:44 am

Milady Wife also, and mourns the Summer Solstice. I celebrate each season and change, except the thaw. 45ºN 86ºW

Jules Guidry
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
December 23, 2021 7:01 am

Ditto. My wife as well. And, now me. In my “golden years” I have come to appreciate the longer days and warmer temps. Should’ve moved to FL years ago. Oh well.

Randle Dewees
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
December 23, 2021 8:26 am

Ugh, my wife loves the short cold day dark rundown to the solstice. If I complain she gayly says something like “there’s no inappropriate weather, just inappropriate attire!”. I’m happy to see the day go by.

Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
December 23, 2021 3:11 pm

Yes, but keep in mind that in just 6 months, the days are going to start to get shorter.

December 23, 2021 4:43 am

Reminds me all the time of this video:

Reply to  Ruleo
December 23, 2021 5:03 am

Some things never seem to change.

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  Ruleo
December 23, 2021 5:46 am

That’s shocking. No wonder they are easy prey for climate change hucksters.

Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
December 23, 2021 6:07 am

And if that is Harvard, what would you expect from a less reputable university.
It is probably because my university lectures were held where Milankovic was professor few decades earlier, that more attention was paid to such things than it appears to be the case with Harvard.

Komerade’s Cube
Reply to  Vuk
December 25, 2021 8:02 am

I personally consider Harvard one of the less reputable universities. It’s a social club for the spawn of wealthy oligarchs and robber barons.

Reply to  Ruleo
December 23, 2021 6:13 am

does Harvard offer a warranty, or have a refund policy?

Reply to  joe
December 23, 2021 3:51 pm

No. You sign a damage waiver before starting classes.

December 23, 2021 5:18 am

Terrific photos!

Climate believer
December 23, 2021 5:46 am

Is the Arctic still screaming as it was back in 2007?… asking for a friend…

Janice Moore
Reply to  Climate believer
December 23, 2021 10:14 am

Pippin Cool (sp?), the hysterical troll, is likely who you heard screaming (almost daily, for awhile). “Keep your eyes on the Arctic people*!!!!”

*He or she always left out the comma after “Arctic,” so, it may be his or her way of telling us to keep an eye out for Polar Bears or Eskimos…… or elves…….



Janice Moore
Reply to  Janice Moore
December 23, 2021 10:15 am

“… asking for a friend…” lol

D. J. Hawkins
December 23, 2021 6:21 am

Fun fact. Even though the solstice marks the shortest day of the year, it is not because that is the day with the latest sunrise and earliest sunset. The earliest sunset occurs approximately 2 weeks earlier than the winter solstice, and the latest sunrise approximately 2 week later.

Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
December 23, 2021 9:26 am

But why? It makes no sense!

John Hultquist
Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
December 23, 2021 10:18 am

Earth rotates.

Martin C
Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
December 23, 2021 11:06 am

It’s because the earth is traveling through space faster (as it reaches perihelion); with very little other change to length of day because of being close to the solstice (it would be easy to show with a globe; not sure it easier explained with just words . . ).

December 23, 2021 7:19 am

No, no, no. I checked the ice cores and tree rings and they clearly show the sun revolving around the earth.

December 23, 2021 7:50 am

So many moving parts. It’s hard to keep them all straight.

comment image

Reply to  JiminNEF
December 23, 2021 8:09 am

And you even have not mention Jupiter yet.

Reply to  Vuk
December 23, 2021 9:19 am

The moon is the biggest corrupter. When I was writing my sunrise/sunset program I was having a devil of a time figuring out the time of perihelion, and use that, adjusted for the precession of the equinoxes. I eventually realized that the damn USNO was taking the moon’s and planet’s perturbations into account and came up with a decent date looking at perihelion times in years where the moon was full.

So, my program handles nothing about the moon, except that is likely a driver for precession.

Then Jupiter, then Saturn.

Reply to  JiminNEF
December 23, 2021 5:07 pm

December 23, 2021 8:19 am

I have never been able to figure out why sunrise and sunset don’t change in lock step. This year, the latest sunrise is December 30, but the earliest sunset is December 12th. Makes no sense.

Peter W
Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
December 23, 2021 8:30 am

“Makes no sense.” – sort of like all the climate change fearmongering!

Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
December 23, 2021 9:11 am

Two factors discussed above non circularity of the orbit and inclination of the axis. The earliest/latest dates depend on latitude.
For Calgary data you can see here

Reply to  Jeff in Calgary
December 23, 2021 9:21 am
Nick Schroeder
December 23, 2021 9:12 am

Because of the tilt any given point ToA sees a 700 W/m^2 swing in ISR from summer to winter.
That has a lot more to do with weather and climate than GHG’s single digit radiative forcing values.

Albedo & Heat & Cool 081921 2.jpg
Reply to  Nick Schroeder
December 23, 2021 8:00 pm

The table shows the peak value at solar zenith. The largest swing averaged over a day currently occurs at the South Pole; averaging 600W/sq.m on the 24th December but in a few months will average zero.

The daily average over the equator has a much smaller range – 390W/sq.m in July to 417W/sq.m in January.

December 23, 2021 9:33 am

There are some remarkably inexpensive scales with 0.01 or even 0.001 gram resolution (let’s leave out accuracy and precision – some are pretty good).

It dawned on me that my CoCoRaHS rain gauge weighs a different amount when it’s cold or warm – cold air in the gauge weighs it down! (Don’t argue, its much like how water displaces air and add adds its weight….)

Dumb question, I’ll work through the math next year, maybe:

Can I measure the change in weight related to tidal effects? My guess is no, Hey Middleton, you must measure gravitational fields, do you know?

Steve Keohane
Reply to  Ric Werme
December 25, 2021 7:16 am

My CoCoRaHS gauge lost about 4 grams over 15 years. I use an old triple beam scale to weigh it.

December 23, 2021 3:50 pm

Per the lead photo, the Earth looks cloudy. Is that why some days at daylight I can’t see a deer?

Verified by MonsterInsights