Today, this year's winter solstice, is the darkest day of the year.
Even though the earliest sunset is not on the day of the solstice (in fact it is earlier in December), it is the darkest day of the year because it's the shortest amount of time between sunrise and sunset. This is caused by the Earth's relation to the sun, as well as the angle of the Earth's tilt.
"Earth is at a constant angle to the sun of 23.5 degrees. That axis is always pointing in the same direction so at some times of the year the sun is shining most brightly on the Southern Hemisphere in our winter, and in our summer, when it comes the other way, the sun is shining on the Northern Hemisphere more," said AccuWeather.com Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams. "On the day when the sun appears to be as far south as it ever gets, that's the winter solstice."
The amount of sunlight for the solstice varies by region. In New York, for example, there are roughly nine hours and 13 minutes of sunlight for the solstice. In Phoenix, on the other hand, there are nine hours and 57 minutes of sunlight.
"Astronomically, the sun is thought of as a point source. We define sunrise and sunset as when the disc of the sun makes contact with the horizon," said AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski. "So, if we're defining the winter solstice, we use the times of day when the disc of the Sun hits the horizon, not when the center of the sun hits the equator. It's all about perception."
While the solstice is the darkest day of the year, it's not the coldest. The oceans take a long time to heat up and cool down, and by December they still have some of their summer warmth. Typically, the coldest days of winter do not occur for another month and a half. On the flip side of the seasons, the summer does not hit its hottest point until August, long after the summer solstice in June, according to National Geographic.
"That's a 'budget situation,'" explained Abrams. "If there is more energy going out from the Earth (from the Northern Hemisphere) than coming in, it will get colder and vice versa. So, even at the end of December or beginning of January, the sun is still low in the sky and it doesn't add enough heat to reverse the cooling that's taking place. So, as we get to the end of January or beginning of February it finally gets high enough in the sky that it does start to reverse and we get our spring."
Abrams added, "In fact, I think there's a New England phrase that goes something like 'as the days get longer, the cold gets stronger.' In fact, the coldest weather ever recorded in the Northeast was Feb. 9, 1934. Philadelphia dropped to 11 below zero."
The word solstice literally means "sun stands still" in Latin.
A powerful 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck near the Peru-Brazil border region shortly before 6 p.m. local time Tuesday evening, the U.S. Geological Survey said. A second 7.6 earthquake occurred about five minutes later.
While Atlanta has received above-average rainfall so far this month, dry and calm conditions are forecast for the area this week.
Compared to Thanksgiving Day in 2014, this Thanksgiving will be substantially warmer in the Northeast.
Hurricane Sandra, located hundreds of miles southwest of Mexico, is becoming better organized and will likely track northward through the rest of the week.
A few days of drier weather is expected across southern India before downpours return this weekend.
An expanding area of snow, rain, wind and cold will hamper Thanksgiving travel in the West, while most areas east of the Rockies can expect no major weather-related problems during the early to middle part of this week.
Ohio, PA, WV, NY (1950)
Record Snowstorm (24th-25th) Location Amount Youngstown, OH 28.7 in. (single storm record) Steubenville, OH 36.3 in. (single storm state record) Pittsburgh, PA 27.7 in. (single storm record) Charleston, WV 25.6 in. (single storm record) Albany, NY 22.5 in.
Typhoon Irma, the worst in 10 years packed winds up to 139 mph and resulted in a storm surge of 16 feet. 236 people killed; 600,000 were left homeless.
New York State (1989)
Heavy lake-effect snow caused a 60-car accident on I-81 north of Rome.