Tuesday, November 16, 2010


"It's not the cold, it's the darkness" is my favorite winter cliché (and one that I like a lot better than its summer analogue about heat/humidity), so I'll go ahead and observe the crushing late-afternoon darkness now descending on the moderately northern reaches of our fair hemisphere.

Earlier this week I had a beautiful view of a couple of winter sunsets from my desk at work, with a bright, chalk-white crescent moon tracing its gradual arc, Monday against bands of pink and lavender clouds, Tuesday and Wednesday against a limpid blue deepening luxuriously into its darker hues. Underneath the sky were silhouetted the familiar churchly and collegiate spires of my southerly window-view. It's picturesque, but it also blows inasmuch as it's transpiring at 4:30 in the afternoon. Also, this week there's been cloud cover, so it's no limpidity and all blow.

Similar to the situation with the equilux, there are some not-really-intuitive calendrical markers involved. Let's go to the tape, by which I mean Naval Oceanography Portal.

The shortest day of the year is, of course, the cold solstice: nine hours and eleven minutes of light here in the Elm City, on December 20 this year. However, for reasons that I can't figure out intuitively (and therefore am too frustrated to try to look up) the earliest sunset occurs rather earlier, bottoming out at 4:22 PM between December 5 and December 11. (These are all New-Haven-specific figures.) So today's sunset at 4:32 is only ten minutes better than the minimum.

Meanwhile, sunrise keeps sliding later in the day until early January, when between New Year's and the 7th it's at 7:18 in the morning. That's 37 minutes later than today.

But it's the end-of-workday darkness that's most affecting, of course. On the plus side it doesn't get significantly worse after daylight saving time ends. On the minus side, it doesn't get significantly better until mid to late January, and even then it's still getting dark at 5.

My main interest in all of this is that I've never really noticed these varying minima and maxima before. I've lost touch with nature even more than I thought! Good thing there's the Internet.


Blogger nate said...

Interesting; Portland's sunsets fare a little better, reaching a nadir of 4:27 PM between December 6th and 14th. The "no limpidity and all blow" problem is most definitely in effect here, though, despite some serviceably limpid days scattered throughout November so far.

I don't know when the sunrise comes latest because I was too lazy to look up next year's chart, and for similar reasons I don't know what accounts for these differences in timing. I think I'll just attribute it to an imagined, slight wobble in the earth's rotation.

My biggest out of touch with nature / thanks, Internet moment recently was when one of Kyle's and my friends showed us the constellation app for their iPhone. I could fix my total lack of familiarity with the night sky with technology! If I had a smartphone!

11/16/2010 8:01 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

Also, excellent job in having the blog tagline complete a reference from a caption to a photo in a lower post.

We weave an elaborate text here.

11/17/2010 9:33 AM  
Anonymous Dad said...

Two days ago I sat next to a guy on an airplane who opined: it's a good day when you learn at least one thing. I was glad I had stayed up late last night, because at 11:45 I was reading the blog. And I never knew that the shortest day didn't have the latest sunrise or earliest sunset.

If I had known, I imagine I would have told you guys. It's an interesting little fact that kids should know.

You may remember hearing that when Mom & I were looking for this house we had a list of all our most preferred features. Well before we ever saw Oakview, we lost the list, and didn't find it until the day we left Waldorf. There were only two things on the list that this house didn't have; one of those was that it be high on a hill, with a view of the night sky. Sorry about the constellations, Nate.

11/17/2010 1:46 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home