- NASA astronomy picture of the day by Danilo Pivato
OK: It’s getting closer and my blood pressure is rising. The winter solstice is a few days away (December 21 at 6:38 p.m. EST) and of course we have been hearing incorrect things in the media about this cold snowy December ,like “But it’s not even winter.” Or after the recent blizzard in Minnesota, “Winter doesn’t even officially begin for two more weeks.”
Folks, the solstice is an astronomical event. The sun at noon is at its lowest position in the sky, as seen in this great NASA time lapse sequence. It is not “official” anything other than the “official” winter solstice. I have been in Washington, D.C. a long time and have searched high and low for the assistant under-secretary to the associate administrator to the special presidential appointee to the council on seasons. No such person, administrator, council, department of government exists . . . at least that I can find.
If there is any “official” beginning of winter it was almost 3 weeks ago on December 1. The “official” weather records and averages for the seasons are kept under a unit of the U.S. Department of Commerce called the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. It is the world’s largest archive of weather data, and it defines the season of winter as December through February. Winter began December 1, and here is the good news: Spring is now only about 75 days away.
If we do get a break in this cold pattern as January arrives, maybe you’ll hear, “Back on December 21 it felt like the middle of winter.” And if you hear in a few days, “Today is the official beginning of winter,” it sure won’t be from me.