Thursday, December 21, 2006

Winter Solstice

Some random thoughts about the winter solstice:

I've always thought "solstice" was a pretty word. It sounds quiet and peaceful.

The actual time and date of the solstices shifts from year to year.

A Winter's Solstice was the first "new age" music I ever purchased. It is the kind of holiday music that I enjoy. My other favorite is Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas . It is a welcome change of pace from all the stuff they play on the radio and in stores.

When I moved to Massachusetts back in December of 1992, I was extremely dismayed to discover that at the winter solstice, the sun sets at 4:20pm and it is dark before 5:00pm. Gack! I hated this worse than the bone-chilling cold. There are two reasons why the sun sets so much earlier there than in Atlanta. The northerly latitude (42 N) makes the day about 45 minutes shorter on winter solstice and longer on summer solstice. But the main culprit is the longitude. Massachusetts is situated on the eastern side of the eastern time zone, while Atlanta is on the far western edge of it. Local noon is around 11:45am in Southbridge, MA, but occurs at 12:35pm here in Atlanta.

In Atlanta, (latitude 34 N) the sun will set today at 5:32pm and twilight will end at 6:00pm. The sun rose at 7:38am. Length of day = 9 hours and 53 minutes. I can live with that. And that is the worst it will be. For the next six months, every day will be a little longer and lighter!

Wishing you all a happy, peaceful, and warm winter solstice.


Beth said...

Since I'm in upstate NY, we're dark by 5pm and I'm okay with it. I always say long, dark, hard winters make you appreciate the spring that much more. My husband on the other hand, seems to sink into a kind of winter depression. He says he needs more sunlight, like a plant. =)

LL said...

I too am north of the 42nd, short days and long nights. Of course the longer the night, the longer the lovin'. :lech:

dr sardonicus said...

Nashville: 250 miles northwest of Atlanta and an hour behind. (Some would say we're further behind than that...)

Winter is interesting in Nashville because it comes and goes. It all depends upon which way the wind is blowing. Winter comes on the north wind, which will often drive our temps into the single digits, but almost always within a few days the winds shift around to the south, and we get several mild, humid days. Then another cold front comes through and the cycle repeats. Sometimes a cold front will time itself just right, and that's how we get our ice and snow.

trinamick said...

We're stuck out here in the dark too. The upshot is that as of today, the days start getting longer again. I need my sunshine!

Kathleen said...

One of the reasons I love Michigan is that it's on the far western edge of the Eastern Time Zone so we're light until 10:00 p.m. in the summer. Last night it was dark by 5:15, but all that means is that the days will now start getting longer! Woohoo!!! Before I know it, summer will be here! ;-)

TheWriteGirl said...

I agree with you -- solstice is a lovely word. And I think it's a very logical reason for a celebration.

I grew up in Massachusetts, in the far west of the state. I guess I just accepted it as normal that it got dark so early. And the cold, well, it was acceptable too.

When I moved to New York City, I was struck by how, even though the actual temperature was higher, it often felt more uncomfortable because it was a damp cold. There's water all around us here. In Mass. it was nice, dry mountain cold. Very different. Of course that was back when there actually was winter. Now, we have...who knows? Will it ever get cold this year? Or ever again?