The Sun Getting Mighty Low....(12-13-12)

<B>(5:30 pm Thursday December 13th)</B>The clear skies the last couple days has reminded us the sun is near its lowest point in the sky as we approach the winter solstice.
The sunshine the last couple of days is nice but if you have been out during the middle of the day either today or yesterday you may have noticed just how low on the horizon the sun really is. Normally, there is so much cloud cover around in December we don’t get such a clear view of the sun’s path across the sky

When you measure the height of the sun on the horizon, you use degrees of the compass where the horizon is 0 degrees while straight overhead is 90 degrees.  Right now, a week away from the winter solstice, it is a mere 23.8 degrees above the horizon.  In comparison, on June 21st (the first day of summer) we reach our peak here in Syracuse of 70.4 degrees.

Courtesy: Daniel N. Schroeder, Weber State University.

This change in sun angle plays a big role in how we warm throughout the year.  With the sun so low, its rays are more spread out this time of year as they reach the earth in the Northern Hemisphere.  This makes it harder for the sun to warm us. 

The sun’s angle plays a bigger role in our heating than even how close we are to the sun.  Technically we reach our closest point to the sun in early January, 3 million miles closer than in July. This is because the earth orbits the earth in an ellipse shape, not that of a circle.

It also helps our warming if we can getting the sun out for a longer time. We are now just about at our shortest amount of daylight with the sun above the horizon for just about 9 hours. Here is how our length of daylight will change over the next six months.

DateLength of Day
December 139 hours 2 minutes
December 219 hours 0 minutes
March 2112 hours 13 minutes
June 2115 hours 22 minutes

As I like to say the day after the solstice is the first baby step toward summer.
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