When is the first day of winter and what is the winter solstice? – NBC Chicago


After bouts of snow in recent weeks, the Chicago area is experiencing 50 degree temperatures and pleasant conditions. But as we are at the end of November, some are preparing for the cold again.

Even though the snow and cold will likely arrive sooner, the official start of winter is still weeks away.

The first day of winter coincides with the winter solstice, which is also the shortest day of the year in terms of hours of sunshine.

The winter solstice marks the point where the North Pole is at its furthest location from the sun, creating the atmosphere for shorter hours of sunshine.

According to the National Weather Service, this year’s winter solstice will occur at 3:48 p.m. CST on Wednesday, December 21, marking the official start of winter.

While the solstice and the shortest day of the year will both occur on December 21, the following day is recognized as the first full day of winter.

Although the day of the solstice is always marked, the solstice itself is just the time when the northern hemisphere is tilted at its farthest point from the sun, according to The Farmer’s Almanac.

As the solstice marks the change of seasons, the event also holds significance for many cultures. Several ancient structures were built to follow the seasons, including Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland.

Additionally, the solstice can also be seen as the time when the sun’s path reaches its southernmost point in the sky, with the opposite effect seen in the southern hemisphere.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the word solstice comes from the Latin words floor and sistertranslating to “sun” and “stand still”, respectively, loosely translating to “the sun stands still”.

After the end of the winter solstice, the sun begins to advance northward until the summer solstice occurs in the northern hemisphere, marking the time when the sun is most tilted toward the hemisphere.

Although they begin towards the end of the months in which they begin, the astronomical seasons and the meteorological seasons both last about three months.

Below is a list of the astronomical seasonal changes we can expect after the upcoming winter solstice next month:

  • Vernal Equinox (Spring): March 20, 2023, 4:24 p.m.
  • Summer Solstice (Summer): June 21, 2023, 9:58 a.m.
  • Autumn Equinox (Fall): September 23, 2023, 1:50 a.m.


NBC Chicago

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