Did you know the earliest sunsets of the year are happening right now? For our region, the earliest sunset happens around early December - about two weeks before the winter solstice or the shortest day of the year. But why are these not the same day?
While the length of a day is defined as 24 hours long, in reality, it varies slightly due to the spin of the Earth. The actual length is defined as a "solar day," and its length can vary from a few seconds to 30 seconds longer than 24 hours!
Additionally, our latitude plays a role. At our latitude (around 41 degrees North), the earliest sunset occurs during the first several days of December. The sun sets a few minutes before 5 p.m. at 4:58 p.m! Sunsets will begin to get later starting around Dec. 17.
However, during this time, the sunrise steadily gets later, and doesn't reach its latest point until after the New Year. A similar effect happens in the summer. The earliest sunrise arrives around mid-June and the latest sunset occurs about a week into summer/end of June.
The shortest day of the year will happen on the first day of winter. Seasons change this year on Dec. 21 at 4:48 p.m. In Cleveland, we will only have 9 hours and 10 minutes of daylight on Dec. 21!
Then we will continue to gain daylight throughout the winter and spring. The increase will start slow at first with only a few seconds and minutes of more daylight. It will become more noticeable by February when we will be gaining more than two minutes of daylight every single day!
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