Sunday, December 22, 2013

What solstice?

The reason we have any seasons at all is axial tilt, so it is, quite literally, the reason for this season we are now in—the one with the holiday appropriated from pagan religion by early Christians. Yeah, that one. One marker of the seasons is the solstice—except downunder.

I should explain: Obviously the solstices (and equinoxes) happen in both hemispheres—they’re astronomical events, after all. However, I have never met anyone in the Southern Hemisphere who takes any notice of them.

I’ve talked about this many times before in the context of seasonal change, most recently on December 1 of this year in my post “Summertime”. That was the date our summer began, and that’s also when the weather was definitely summery. The same is true of other seasons, which also begin on the first of the month in which the other solstice or equinoxes occur.

For what it’s worth, the December Solstice was at 17:11 UTC on December 21, which was 5:11am today, December 22, our time. Clearly I didn’t acknowledge it, since I was asleep at the time.

As an expat from the Northern Hemisphere, getting used to upside down seasons was difficult, but adjusting to them beginning on the first of their respective months wasn’t. In fact, I remember a Chicago TV weatherman years ago used to talk about how the solstices and equinoxes weren’t good indicators of seasons since weather doesn’t necessarily correspond with them. After all, it’s not like the weather in Chicago, say, is mild then suddenly on December 21-ish BOOM! it’s winter.

Having said all that, the solstice does matter for one important reason: The days will now start getting shorter until six months from now when they start getting longer again. I like long days, so this ebb and flow is not one of my favourite things. That ol’ axial tilt at work again.

So, even though people here don’t pay much attention to a solstice like today’s, we’re still bound by it. As always, axial tilt is the reason for the season.

I created the graphic above for a post last year. I used an image in the public domain and claim no ownership over that image, however, the composition is licensed under my usual Creative Commons license.


rogerogreen said...

I love the winter solstice (Northern Hemisphere), because the light, ever so slowly, is returning!

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

And that's why I DISlike the December solstice—it means the days start getting shorter!