Winter Solstice 2021 – First Day of Winter in Northern Hemisphere

Spread the love

December Solstice marks the arrival of the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere, therefore, known as Winter Solstice or Hibernal Solstice, will occur on Tuesday, December 21, 2021, at sharp 15:59 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Not to mention, this astronomical event will also mark the darkest as well as the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

On the other hand, for the people living in the southern hemisphere, this solstice marks the arrival of the first day of summer, therefore known as the Summer or Estival Solstice. Similarly, this astronomical event will mark the brightest as well as the longest day of the year in the southern hemisphere.

To summarize, one can say that 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 December Solstice i.e winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere.

Or, the questions like that is December Solstice actually the official first day of winter or mid-winter? Therefore, in order to get the answer to questions like these, 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 it on the basis of meteorology. 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 summer and winter solstice is responsible for the arrival of summer and winter seasons on earth. In a similar way, the spring & fall equinox is responsible for the arrival of spring and autumn 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 north and south. To put it differently, why when there is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. At the same time, there is the summer solstice in the southern 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 do 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 northern and southern 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 ComparisionNorthern HemisphereSouthern Hemisphere
March EquinoxIn the northern hemisphere, it marks the first day of spring, therefore, Spring or Vernal Equinox.In the southern hemisphere, it marks the first day of fall, therefore, Fall or Autumn Equinox.
June SolsticeIt marks the first day of summer, therefore, Summer Solstice.It marks the first day of winter, therefore, Winter Solstice.
September EquinoxMarks the first day of fall, therefore, Fall Equinox.Marks the first day of spring, therefore, Spring Equinox.
December SolsticeIt marks the first day of winter, therefore, Winter Solstice.It marks the first day of summer, therefore, Summer Solstice.
From the above comparison chart, it is clear that the solstice that occurs in December in the northern hemisphere is the Winter Solstice. On the other hand, due to the earth’s tilt, the solstice that occurs in December in the southern hemisphere is the summer solstice.

 

December Solstice – First Day of Winter in Northern Hemisphere

first-day-of-winter-in-northern-hemisphere
Image Source: Earth Porm

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?

 

See, 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, hence known as the Northern Solstice. On the other hand, during the December solstice, the south pole is at its maximum tilt towards the sun, hence known as the southern solstice.

December Solstice – Southern Solstice

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

During December Solstice, the south pole of the earth is at its maximum tilt towards the sun. Therefore, as a result, half of the earth’s surface (northern hemisphere) receives minimum sunlight.

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

In addition, not only the sun’s orbital path across the sky will be as low as it can be. The sun will also enter the Tropic of Capricorn on the eve of December Solstice. And with that, days get longer and longer after the arrival of the winter solstice. That’s why the winter solstice in the north is also known as the mid-winter.

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, hence 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 northern 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 to 21 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
Spring EquinoxMonday, 1 March 2021Saturday, 20 March 2021
Summer SolsticeTuesday, 1 June 2021Monday, 21 June 2021
Autumn EquinoxWednesday, 1 September 2021Wednesday, 22 September 2021
Winter SolsticeWednesday, 1 December 2021Tuesday, 21 December 2021
All the seasons (meteorological and astronomical) dates are strictly in accordance with the northern hemisphere of the earth.

 

 

How Short is the Shortest Day of the Year in Northern Hemisphere?

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

How short is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere simply depends on the fact that how close you are residing to the north pole. In other words, the closer you reside to the north of the arctic circle towards the north pole, the thinnest hours of daylight you will receive.

According to the data released by the Finnish Meteorological Institute, during the 2015 winter solstice, the Russian port city of Murmansk received zero hours of daylight. Similarly, Copenhagen received approximately 7 hours and 1 minute of daylight. Rome received 9 hours and 7 minutes of daylight. Los Angeles received 9 hours and 53 minutes of daylight.

Not to mention, my home i.e New Delhi received 10 hours and 19 minutes of daylight. To summarize, if we talk about the whole of the northern hemisphere as one, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere received an average of 9 hours of daylight. Don’t forget, the closer you are to the north pole, the thinnest hours of daylight you will receive.

 

When is Winter Solstice in Northern Hemisphere?

In 2021, the December Solstice i.e the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere will occur on Tuesday, December 21, at sharp 15:59 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). It is the time when the sun will be lowest in the sky, therefore, marking the darkest as well as the shortest day of the year in the earth’s northern areas.

Not to mention, this astronomical event will occur at the same moment for all of us. In other words, whether you are living in Australia (i.e in the southern hemisphere), or in London (i.e in the northern hemisphere), it would be a moment of joy for all of us at the same instant.

 

That’s it for this post. If you like this article, share it if you like, like it if you share it. You can also find us on Mix, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. Hey man, If you have come this far, do give us feedback in the comment section. It would make my day. You can also make a donation. Your donations will help us to run our website and serve you BETTER. Cheers!!!

You might also like:


Spread the love

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.

2 thoughts on “Winter Solstice 2021 – First Day of Winter in Northern Hemisphere”

  1. Thank you very much for these posts. I learn a lot. It doesn’t feel “dumbed down” but just explained more clearly than when I was in school. Look forward to reading more.

    Reply

Leave a Comment