Science

Winter comes to San Benito County

The North Pole is now the farthest it will be from the sun all year.

Winter officially comes to San Benito County on Dec. 21 at 8:19 p.m. At this time, the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere. Here it seems to stand still (“sol” means sun, “stice” means still) before the earth switches direction.

Also known as the December Solstice or Southern Solstice, this event brings winter in the Northern hemisphere and summer to the Southern hemisphere. The North Pole is now as far from the sun as it will be during the year. As Earth moves following the solstice, the North Pole begins to tilt back toward the sun. This is what causes the change in daylight hours. As Earth is exposed to more sun, the days gradually lengthen until the sun reaches the Tropic of Cancer in June. The time of the solstice depends on longitude, and the length of daylight depends on latitude. San Benito County will experience nine hours and 38 minutes of daylight on the day of the solstice.

Winter photo taken by Rene Rodriguez
Winter photo taken by Rene Rodriguez

How cold the winter is, and when winter weather is most severe, depends on several factors. In our location, we do not see the worst of winter until January or February. This is due to the heat capacity of the ocean and the amount of snow in surrounding areas. Water holds heat better than soil and air, and the ocean does not cool down enough to cause the most severe winter temperatures until weeks following the solstice. As snow gathers on mountains it reflects sunlight, causing less heat to reach Earth. Thus, the more snow the colder the temperatures. This is known as the Albedo Effect. 

 

More Information:

Winter solstice: Why isn’t the shortest day also the coldest?

Why does winter get colder after the solstice?

 

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Carmel de Bertaut

Carmel has a BA in Natural Sciences/Biodiversity Stewardship from San Jose State University and an AA in Communications Studies from West Valley Community College. She reports on science and the environment, arts and human interest pieces. Carmel has worked in the ecological and communication fields and is an avid creative writer and hiker. She has been reporting for BenitoLink since May, 2018 and covers Science and the Environment and Arts and Culture.