Countdown to Spring

by Laura Overdeck

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 2024) it’s on the 20th. Fall starts on the 22nd for 2 years, then on the 23rd for 2 years…and then it will repeat that pattern. 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 you sleep for 8 of those dark hours without sunlight, how many dark hours are you awake for in the 24-hour day?

The sky’s the limit: If summer starts on June 20th only in leap years, like 2024, and on June 21st the rest of the time, on what date will it start in the year 2050?

Answers:
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: 7 dark hours, because 9 hours of sunlight makes 15 dark hours, and 15 – 8 = 7.

The sky’s the limit: It will start on June 21st. 50 is not a multiple of 4, so 2050 can’t be, either.

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