Today is the winter solstice, when the southern half of Earth is tilted towards the sun and the top half, the north, is tilted away. For the US, UK and other northern places, it’s the coldest season because the sun is shining from lower in the sky. In fact, at the North Pole they’re getting no sun at all, day or night! Today is also the shortest day of the year, with the latest sunrise and earliest sunset. The good news is, starting tomorrow each day will have more daylight than the one before.
So on which day does each season start? Here’s the deal. The spring equinox always lands on March 20th — that one is easy. Summer usually starts on June 21st, except every leap year (like 2016) it’s on the 20th. Fall starts on the 22nd for 2 years, as in 2016 and 2017, then on the 23rd for 2 years…and then it will repeat that pattern. Winter starts on December 21st except in every 4th year (the odd year before a leap year, like 2019) it’s the 22nd. See if you can remember all that!
Wee ones: If the sun sets today at 8 pm for you and sets at 6 pm in June, in which month do you get a later sunset?
Little kids: If your bedtime is always 10 minutes after sunset, and tonight the sun sets at 5:10 pm for you, when’s your bedtime today? Bonus: If spring starts 3 months from now, what month will that be?
Big kids: If today you got only 9 hours of sunlight, when was your sunrise and sunset if noon was right in the middle? Bonus: If winter started on the 22nd in 2016 and on the 21st this year, how many days did we wait for the start of this year’s winter?
The sky’s the limit: If summer starts on June 20th only in leap years, like 2016, and on June 21st the rest of the time, on what date will it start in the year 2050?
Wee ones: In December – so you must live south of the equator!
Little kids: At 5:20 pm. Bonus: In March.
Big kids: At 7:30 am and 4:30 pm. Bonus: 364 days – one less day than a full year.
The sky’s the limit: It will start on June 21st. 50 is not a multiple of 4, so 2050 can’t be, either.