By Joe Reynolds
New York Harbor Nature Blog
Here we are again! While it seems like winter arrived weeks ago with bouts of snow and cold earlier in December, this was probably just Old Man Winter getting primed. The official first day of winter for the 2017-2018 season arrives today, Thursday, December 21 at 11:28am. EST.
The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. During winter, temperatures are likely to get colder as cold air builds up over the Arctic region due to the low intensity of sunlight.
This is because the tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis in the Northern Hemisphere is 23.5 degrees away from the sun, providing the Northern Hemisphere with the least daylight of the year and the opportunity for December, January and February to be cold winter months up north until the Sun climbs higher in the sky.
Although quite a few people around New York Harbor think the seasons are caused by how close the Earth is to the Sun: summer the Earth is closer to the sun and winter the Earth is farther from the sun. This just isn’t true.
It's all about Earth's tilt! As Earth travels through its yearlong path around the sun, it does so on a slight slant of about 23.5 degrees either toward or away from the Sun during different times of year. The solstice marks the beginning of the winter. At Winter Solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is titled the farthest away from the Sun and we experience winter. Around the Summer Solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun and we get more of the Sun's direct rays and enjoy warmer temperatures.
The seasons, of course, are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere where they are now experiencing summer. The Southern Hemisphere is titled towards the Sun this time of year. Hence the reason why it is summer now in Australia.
In ancient times, the Winter Solstice was an important time for early civilizations, as it marked the changing of the seasons and a new year. Today, however, many people in Western-based cultures refer to this holiday as "Christmas” and have largely forgotten its unique physical roots.
STOP THE WILLIAMS FRACKED GAS PIPELINE THROUGH NY HARBOR!
MY TOP 5 FAVORITE BOOKS ABOUT NY HARBOR
1. Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City by Leslie Day
2.Heartbeats in the Muck by John Waldman
3. The Fisheries of Raritan Bay by Clyde L. MacKenzie Jr.
4. Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan by Phillip Lopate
5. The Bottom of the Harbor by Joseph Mitchell