A local weather observer is pleased to pass on some good news from astronomers to Vancouver Island residents looking forward to longer afternoon daylight after the winter solstice on Dec. 21.
Although the solstice has the shortest overall hours of daylight between sunrise and sunset, there is a small wobble in the Earth’s axis that causes our afternoons to stop becoming shorter as early as Dec. 10-12 on Vancouver Island.
According to Chemainus-based Environment Canada volunteer Chris Carss, the sunset time which has been getting earlier and earlier since late June finally stalls out at 4:17 p.m. on those dates this year. This value changes very little from one year to the next, but may vary a bit in different parts of the Island.
After that, the sunset times start to become later and later as the sun starts its northward migration until we have our longest hours of afternoon/evening daylight next June.
However, because the winter solstice is still the shortest day of the year, it becomes necessary to “rob Peter and pay Paul” to balance out our daylight accounts. This means our morning sunrise will continue to get later and later until after Boxing Day when the time will stall out at 8:08 a.m., then start getting earlier again around New Year’s Eve.
“So the news is not so good for early risers who like to see some daylight when they wake up during the Christmas season,” Carss said.
In June, this scenario will be turned around and the morning sun will reverse its annual migration before the solstice while the p.m. sun waits.
Carss said Dec. 10-12 also mark the Island’s statistically wettest days of the year based on average frequency of precipitation. After that, the precipitation events gradually become less frequent until the arrival of the dry season in July. In recent years, our coldest temperatures have also been observed in December.
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