Winter

When is winter?

The meteorological calendar classifies winter as beginning in December and ending in February. In the astronomical calendar, winter starts on the winter solstice, which is around 22 December in the Northern Hemisphere.

The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year and occurs when the sun is furthest south from Earth's equator and the Earth's Northern Hemisphere is tilted away resulting in less solar heating. After the winter solstice, days start to get longer with more hours of daylight.

What is the weather like in winter?

Winters in the UK are characterised by having unsettled and windy weather, this may be due to the incoming depressions and fronts moving across from the North Atlantic. This can mean those living in northern and western parts of the UK can see mild but stormy winters.

Solstice and Christmas

Amongst the many festivals that centre around the solstices and equinoxes, the Scandinavian festival of Jul has some rituals that are probably more familiar than you think.

Perhaps more familiar to us as Yule, the 12-day festival centred around the solstice has given birth to many of our most familiar Christmas traditions including the Christmas tree, the Yule log and the Christmas wreath.

The earliest sunset

Logically you'd expect the earliest sunset to fall on the shortest day, but the earliest sunset actually occurs a few days earlier in the calendar and it's all to do with our clocks not quite mirroring the earth's orbit.

Nine hours darker

You're probably aware that the day of the winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year, but did you know that its almost nine hours shorter than the longest day of the year?

The summer solstice in June is just short of 16 hours and 38 minutes long, while on the day of the winter solstice the length of the day is a mere 7 hours and 50 minutes.

The magic moment

While many focus on the winter solstice as a day in the calendar, what we are actually talking about is a very specific moment which is over almost as soon as it has begun.

The solstice marks the point at which the Sun is exactly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn which this year will happen on Wednesday 21 December at 16:28 GMT.

all information from met office and goggle seaches

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