June Solstice 2021 – First Day of Winter in Southern Hemisphere

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June Solstice marks the arrival of the first day of winter in the southern hemisphere. That’s why in the earth’s southern areas, let’s say of Australian people, the June Solstice is known as the winter solstice or hibernal solstice.

In 2021, the winter solstice in Australia (southern hemisphere) will occur on Monday, June 21, at sharp 13:32 Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST). Not to mention, this astronomical event will also be the darkest as well as the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere.

On the other hand, for the people living in the northern hemisphere, this solstice marks the arrival of the first day of summer. That’s why in the earth’s northern areas, the June solstice is known as Summer Solstice or Estival Solstice.

Again, for the people living in the northern half of the earth, this astronomical event will also be the brightest as well as the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. In other words, the meaning of Solstice changes depending on the fact that at which side of the hemisphere you live upon.

Moving ahead, in this exclusive article, we will talk about the fact that why June solstice i.e winter solstice in the southern hemisphere is the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere?

Or, the questions like that June solstice i.e the first day of winter in the southern hemisphere is actually the official first day of winter or mid-winter? Therefore, in order to get an answer to these questions, I would suggest you stick with me till the end. Let’s dive right in!!!

 

What is Solstice?

There are two ways to define the meaning of solstice. These are meteorological and astronomical definitions of Solstice. Right now, I am going to explain it on the basis of astronomy. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be explaining the meteorological definition of solstices. We will talk about it in the later section.

So, moving ahead, according to the astronomical definition of solstices, this is a natural event during which one of the hemispheres is at the maximum tilt away from or towards the sun. And, when this happens, the sun appears to stand still and reverses its direction. In layman, Solstice is a day that occurs due to the sun’s changing path.

Four Seasons

In case if you don’t know, there are generally four seasons that occur on earth. These are summer, winter, autumn, and spring. Just like the winter and summer solstice is responsible for the arrival of winter and summer seasons on earth. In a similar way, the fall & spring equinox is responsible for the arrival of fall and spring seasons on earth.

types-of-seasons-on-earth
Four types of seasons that occurs on earth: (above) Winter, Spring, (below) Summer, Autumn/Fall

To summarise, each year earth experiences 2 solstices (summer and winter) and 2 equinoxes (spring and fall) that help us to understand the patterns related to the changing seasons.

Now, the question arises that why there is a mismatch between the south and north. To put it differently, why when there is the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere. At the same time, there is the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. Let’s find out!!!

 

Thanks to Earth’s Tilt, We See Solstices

earth's-tilt-reason-for-seasons
Earth’s axial tilt (obliquity) is currently about 23.4°. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Well, there is a small correction here. Not only we see solstices because of the earth’s tilt. We see equinoxes too. Moving ahead, just because the earth has an axial tilt of 23.4 degrees, there is a mismatch between the southern and northern hemispheres.

In fact, Kepler’s law also contributes to the formation of the different seasons across the globe. YES, YES, the same Kepler’s law that states that all the planets in the solar system revolve around the sun in an elliptical orbit.

However, Kepler’s law contribution can’t be compared to the role played by the earth’s tilt. I mean, if I say in terms of approximated ratios. Then it will be like 90:10.

Basis of ComparisionSouthern HemisphereNorthern Hemisphere
March EquinoxIn the southern hemisphere, it marks the first day of fall, therefore, Fall or Autumn Equinox.In the northern hemisphere, it marks the first day of spring, therefore, Spring or Vernal Equinox.
June SolsticeIt marks the first day of winter, therefore, Winter Solstice.It marks the first day of summer, therefore, Summer Solstice.
September EquinoxMarks the first day of spring, therefore, Spring Equinox.Marks the first day of fall, therefore, Fall Equinox.
December SolsticeIt marks the first day of summer, therefore, Summer Solstice.It marks the first day of winter, therefore, Winter Solstice.
From the above comparison chart, it is clear that the solstice that occurs in June in the southern hemisphere is the Winter solstice. On the other hand, due to the earth’s tilt, the solstice that occurs in June in the northern hemisphere is the Summer solstice.

 

 

June Solstice: First Day of Winter in Southern Hemisphere

first-day-of-winter-in-australia
An image of the first day of winter i.e winter solstice in Australia. Image Credit: OLIVER PELLING

As you already know that a solstice is a natural event during which one of the hemispheres is at the maximum tilt away from or towards the sun. Moreover, you also know that there are two types of Solstices.

These are June Solstice and December Solstice. So, how to define June solstice or December Solstice? OKAY, let me rephrase my question for you!!! What’s the difference between June and December solstice? ANY GUESS?

Well, the only difference between them is that during the June solstice, the north pole of the earth is at its maximum tilt towards the sun. That’s why the June solstice is also known as the Northern Solstice.

On the other hand, during the December solstice, the south pole is at its maximum tilt towards the sun. That’s why the December solstice is also known as the southern solstice.

June Solstice – Northern Solstice

Moving ahead, during the June solstice, the north pole of the earth is at its maximum tilt towards the sun, therefore, half of the earth’s surface (northern hemisphere) receives maximum sunlight. Refer to the image given below for proper understanding.

Hence, marking the brightest as well as the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. That’s why the June solstice aka northern solstice is officially known as the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere.

earth's-illumination-during-different-season-in-different-hemisphere
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Similarly, just because the north pole of the earth is at its maximum tilt towards the sun, as a result, the south pole of the earth is at its maximum tilt away from the sun. Therefore, half of the earth’s surface (southern hemisphere) receives minimum sunlight.

Hence, marking the darkest as well as the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere. That’s why the June solstice aka the northern solstice is officially known as the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere.

Additionally, during the official first day of winter in the southern hemisphere, not only the sun’s orbital path across the sky is as low as it can be. The sun will also enter the tropic of cancer on the eve of the June solstice.

And with that, days get longer after the winter solstice. That’s why the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere is also known as the midwinter.

 

Winter Solstice – First Day of Winter or Midwinter?

Now is the time that we should talk about the meteorological definition of the winter solstice. Well, technically speaking, if we go by the meteorological definition of the winter solstice, it marks the end of the half of the winter or winter season i.e mid-winter.

However, on the other hand, if we go by the astronomical definition of the winter solstice, it marks the arrival of the first day of winter. Therefore, the question arises that why we have two different definitions for a single event. More importantly, which one of these is the correct one? Let’s find out.

Let’s Go Back in Time

Before the arrival of the scientific revolution, humans didn’t know how to calculate the change in the season in terms of astronomical calculations. WHY? Because they didn’t have the telescope to do such nasty observations.

Therefore, what they used to do is to calculate the change in season as humanly as possible. With time, early humans understood that the sun seems to cross over the horizon after a fixed interval of time. Additionally, they also understood the pattern of the annual temperature cycle.

In other words, what early humans used to do is to calculate the relative things, like what they felt and observed with the naked eyes, which is in fact in the modern notation is known as the meteorological definition of winter solstice or simply meteorological winter.

On the other hand, what our astronomers and scientists calculate with their super-sophisticated technology is defined as the astronomical definition of winter solstice or simply astronomical winter.

Therefore, to conclude, I would say that both definitions are correct in their own sense. Hence, as a result, some people define winter solstice in the southern hemisphere as the first day of winter.

On the contrary, some people define it as the end of the half of the winter or winter season. Hence mid-winter. Not to mention, the meteorological seasons always arrive approx 20 days before the arrival of astronomical seasons. To understand it more clearly, refer to the below table.

 

Meteorological vs Astronomical Seasons

SeasonsMeteorological Season DatesAstronomical Season Dates
Autumn Equinox 2021Monday, 1 March 2021Saturday, 20 March 2021
Winter Solstice 2021Tuesday, 1 June 2021Monday, 21 June 2021
Spring Equinox 2021Wednesday, 1 September 2021Thursday, 23 September 2021
Summer Solstice 2021Wednesday, 1 December 2021Wednesday, 22 December 2021
All the seasons (meteorological and astronomical) dates are strictly in accordance with the southern hemisphere of the earth.

 

How Long is the Shortest Day of the Year in the Southern Hemisphere?

How long is the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere simply depends on the fact how close you are residing to the south pole. In other words, the closer you reside to the south of the antarctic circle towards the south pole, the thinnest hours of daylight you will receive.

solstice-to-solstice-solar-graph
Summer solstice to winter solstice solar graph showing the maximum and minimum elevation of the sun’s orbital path. Pic Credit: Ian Hennes

According to the data released by the Finnish Meteorological Institute, during the 2016 June solstice, Ushuaia i.e is the southernmost city of Argentina received 7 hours and 12 minutes of daylight. Capetown received 9 hours and 53 minutes of daylight. And, Dunedin i.e second-largest city on the South Island of New Zealand received 8 hours and 39 minutes of daylight during the June solstice.

If we talk about the whole of the southern hemisphere as one, the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere received an average of 9 hours of daylight. Don’t forget, the closer you are to the south pole, the thinnest hours of daylight you will receive.

 

What is the First Day of Winter in the Southern Hemisphere?

In 2021, Winter Solstice i.e the first day of winter as well as the shortest day of the year in Australia (southern hemisphere) will occur on Monday, June 21, at sharp 13:32 Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST).

Well, not just the shortest, it will be the darkest as well as the longest night of the year in the earth’s southern hemisphere. Not to mention, this astronomical event will occur at the same moment for all of us.

In other words, whether you are living in London (i.e in the northern hemisphere), or in Australia (i.e in the southern hemisphere), it would be a moment of joy for all of us at the same instant.

Why does the winter solstice date vary?

Yes, the date of the solstice does vary. Well, it’s not rocket science to understand, just some basic physics. See, after every four years, there is a leap year. Therefore, in order to adjust the Gregorian Calendar with the eve of the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere, the June solstice date varies.

For example, in 2020, the June solstice occurred on the 20th of the month. But this year i.e 2021, it will occur on 21th of the month. Not to mention, there are some other factors too, that contribute to the variation in the dates of the Winter solstice. But, just to make things simple, I am just neglecting them.

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I am a mechanical engineer by profession. Just because of my love for fundamental physics, I switched my career, and therefore I did my postgraduate degree in physics. Right now I am a loner (as ever) and a Physics blogger too. My sole future goal is to do a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, especially in the field of cosmology. Because in my view, every aspect of physics comes within the range of cosmology. And I love traveling, especially the Sole one.

10 thoughts on “June Solstice 2021 – First Day of Winter in Southern Hemisphere”

  1. Nice article but you made an error in the 2nd paragraph.
    You stated, ‘the June solstice i.e winter solstice in the southern hemisphere will occur on Monday, June 21, at sharp 14:32 Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT)’
    AEDT is NOT running at this time of year, we are on EST (Eastern Standard Time) in June right up to the official Aust Start of AEDT which is between 1st Sunday in October till the 1st Sunday in April. cheers………

    Reply
    • Hello Philip,
      Thank you so much for your feedback. I just rechecked what you have mentioned. As per your pro feedback, I have corrected my mistake. Once again thank you so much much. Keep visiting us!!!! Cheers…!!!

      Reply
    • Well, yeah, meteorologically, you are correct. The first day of winter in the southern hemisphere is the 1st of June. However, astronomically, in the southern hemisphere, winter season begins on the eve of winter solstice…!!!

      Reply
  2. I already knew about it all. But the way you explained in terms of Science n all, you nailed it, bro. Keep doing good work,

    Reply
    • Hey Christine,
      Thank you for your feedback. As per astronomical seasonal classifications, winter does start on the June solstice. However, if I talk about the meteorological seasonal classifications, it starts on the first day of the month of June. I hope it will clear your query. Cheers!!! Keep visiting us…!!!

      Reply

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