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Will we ever see the sun again?

No.

Just kidding! The sun might even be out right now, as you read this. But as we approach the winter solstice and the shortest day of the year on Tuesday, December 22, these are truly dark times for Minnesota. If you’re a nine-to-fiver, you might be experiencing the singularly disheartening experience of going to work in the dark and coming home in the same.

Visualizing a whole year of daylight and darkness for Minneapolis, starting today, makes it clear that we’re currently in the narrow part of the tunnel when it comes to our exposure to the goddess Sol.

Minneapolis’ solar year

Days are just under 9 hours, a little more than a third of the whole 24-hour period.

The good news is that after Tuesday, the days begin elongating at a steady rate until the summer solstice on June 20, when we’ll see just under 16 hours of daylight to a little more than 8 hours of dark — the inverse of the situation today. 

And that strange apparent shift in the space-time continuum on March 13 and November 6? That’s Daylight Savings time.

As any fifth grader can tell you, Minneapolis’ steep variation in day lengths can be attributed to its location just shy of 45° N latitude and the tilt of the Earth’s axis vis-a-vis the sun. For people living close to the Equator, the idea of seasonal variation in day lengths is totally foreign. Take Quito, Ecuador, located at 0.23° S:

Quito’s solar year

Every day in Quito — all year long — begins right around 6 a.m., with sunset following like clockwork 12 hours later around 6 p.m. Additionally, Ecuadoreans are spared the indignity of shifting their clocks by an hour twice per year. Compared to Minnesota, Ecuador’s days are a lot more predictable.

But it could also be worse! Consider the plight of the poor Norwegians suffering in Oslo:

Oslo’s solar year

On the winter solstice, the sun will set in Oslo (at about 60°N latitude) at 3:12 p.m., not quite 6 hours after it rose at 9:18 a.m. That’s bleak — no wonder death metal is so popular there.

But there’s a big consolation prize for the Norwegians come summertime, to the tune of a nearly 19-hour-long day on June 20.

Random Acts of Data is an occasional series by MinnPost reporter Andy Mannix and news editor Tom Nehil. The goal: to answer questions about all things Minnesota using the vast amount of data at our disposal. If you have a question you’re wondering about, send an email to data@minnpost.com with the subject line, “Random Acts of Data.”

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Comments (1)

o Sol o Meow

A great season for catnaps, yes?