Thursday, 21 June 2012


“Every mile is two in winter” - George Herbert

The Winter solstice is the time at which the Sun is appearing at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon. In the Northern Hemisphere this is the Southern solstice, the time at which the Sun is at its southernmost point in the sky, which usually occurs on December 21st to 22nd each year. In the Southern Hemisphere this is the Northern solstice, the time at which the Sun is at its northernmost point in the sky, which usually occurs on June 20th to 21st each year.

The axial tilt of Earth and gyroscopic effects of the planet’s daily rotation keep the axis of rotation pointed at the same point in the sky. As the Earth follows its orbit around the Sun, the same hemisphere that faced away from the Sun, experiencing winter, will, in half a year, face towards the Sun and experience summer. Since the two hemispheres face opposite directions along the planetary pole, as one polar hemisphere experiences winter, the other experiences summer.

More evident from high latitudes, a hemisphere’s winter solstice occurs on the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun's daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest. Since the winter solstice lasts only a moment in time, other terms are often used for the day on which it occurs, such as “midwinter”, “the longest night”, “the shortest day” or “the first day of winter”.

The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days. Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied from culture to culture, but most northern hemisphere cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.

We have had a very wintry day in Melbourne today, with non-stop rain, low temperatures and a grey, leaden sky. The day was very short and night very long. I got into work while it was still dark and left work in the dark also. Just as well I went for a lunchtime walk, which even though was in the rain, helped to put me in a good mood.

1 comment:

  1. Nothing will convince me to love or value winter. Yes I realise a city has to collect enough rain in the reservoirs to last the citizens through the dry months, but winter this week has been a total misery.

    I don't remember June being this cold when we were children.