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The start of the winter season is marked by holiday carolers, hot cocoa, and in some parts of the world, blustery weather. Whether you enjoy bundling up in your Snug gear or are already counting down the days until spring, here are some facts about what’s happening outdoors this time of year.
Winter is coming – in fact it has already arrived! There are two different dates when winter could be said to begin, depending on whether we are referring to the Meteorological or Astronomical winter.
Winter defined by the Earth’s orbit around the sun, begins on the equinox which falls on 21 or 22 December.
However, when recording and comparing climate data, it is important to have set dates that can be compared and so for this reason a fixed date of the 1 December is used to mark the start of the meteorological winter.
The roots of winter – The word winter comes from the Germanic wintar which in turn is derived from the root wed meaning ‘wet’ or water’, and so signifying a wet season.
In Anglo-Saxon cultures, years were counted by the winters, so a person calf could be said to be ‘2 winters old’. The first day of winter was also of symbolic importance named Vetrardag and falling comparatively early in the year between October 10th and 16th.
Earth is closest to the sun in winter – you might be surprised to know that in the northern hemisphere the earth is closest to the sun during winter.
Around the 3 January, the Earth reaches perihelion (peri meaning ‘near’ and helion meaning ‘sun’) and the earth is 3.1 million miles closer to the sun than at aphelion (around July 5 when the earth is furthest from the sun).
Earth’s distance from the sun is not what causes the seasons but it does affect the length of them. Around perihelion the earth is moving around 1 kilometre per second faster than at aphelion which results in winter being 5 days shorter than summer.
Snowflakes come in all sizes – The average snowflake ranges from a size slightly smaller than a penny to the width of a human hair. But according to some unverified sources they can grow much larger. Witnesses of a snowstorm in Fort Keogh, Montana in 1887 claimed to see milk-pan sized crystals fall from the sky. If true that would make them the largest snowflakes ever spotted, at around 15 inches (38cm) wide.
How much water is there in snow? The exact amount of water contained in snow can vary quite significantly depending on how the snow formed, but as a general average, every 12 cm of snow would provide 1 cm of water.
Liked our list? We’ll give you some more on further posts.
Snug winter everyone!