Winter begins today Friday, December 21. This day is also known by another (rather awesome) title: the winter solstice. We thought we'd help get you primed for the new season with a Solstice Super Pack. It's everything you'd ever want to know about the shortest day of the year, starting with...
It's the shortest day of the year (around here, anyway)
Thanks to the way that our planet tilts on its axis—at a 23.5-degree angle—the length of our days change, well, daily! While it's a subtle change over 24 hours, across six months it's huge. And if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice represents the shortest day of the year.
That's because it is when the Sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, an imaginary line that circles the Southern Hemisphere at, wait for it, 23.5°S. Essentially, this is furthest south that the Sun "travels" across the planet. Therefore, it is the time when the north gets the least amount of sunshine, a.k.a. the shortest day of the year. That said ...
It's NOT the coldest day of the year
While no one is suggesting breaking out the swimming suits, December 21 is almost never going to be the coldest day of the year. Why? Though it does indeed have the least amount of warm sunshine, we're still only at the start of winter. Oceans and other large bodies of water still have a relatively large amount of heat stored in them from the past summer and fall. This in turn helps keep the land warmer than it would be otherwise.
But by mid-January, you will find that that leftover warmth is pretty much spent. This is when the coldest days of the year begin. And while it is never the exact same day every year, we can tell you that the coldest day in Canada on record was in Snag, Yukon on February 3, 1947. The temperature? A deadly -62.8°C (-81°F).
But back to the solstice, how short is it exactly?
Well, that depends on where you live. As you might be able to guess, the further north that you go, the shorter the day. If you happen to find yourself in Igloolik, Nunavut, for example, you will have no sun at all. The capital of Iqaluit, on the other hand, will get a relatively tropical 4 hours and 20 minutes of daylight.
Edmonton? 7 hours 27 minutes.
Vancouver? 8 hours 11 minutes.
Montreal? That's a balmy 8 hours 42 minutes (barely seems short at all now!)
Want to know your home's day length on the solstice (or any other day)? Check this site out!
It's all about the night life
Today, the winter solstice is kind of a neat thing to notice. But go back a few centuries and it would've been one of the biggest days of the year. It marked a time of both chores and feasts, as people hunkered down for the long, cold winter months.
Because while the daylight may be fading, the winter solstice is also the longest night of the year. And everyone knows that the night time is the perfect time for a good party! So this Thursday, grab some friends, a bunch of snacks, warm blankets, a list of your favourite movies, and welcome winter in style.
Stay cozy, friends!