When does winter start? When is first day of 2022 UK season, start and end date - winter solstice explained
Winter brings colder temperatures, but also Christmas
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The temperature is dropping, the weather is turning wet and the days are getting darker. It can only mean one thing - winter is on its way.
The fourth and final season of the year is just around the corner, and with it always comes a mix of emotions.
On the one hand, people are unhappy about the impending cold spells - and this is especially true in 2022 given the current cost of living crisis.
On the other hand, however, people look forward to Christmas which is typically a time for family and general merriment.
Whether you like it or loathe it, winter happens every year.
So, when exactly does winter start, and what is the winter solstice?
Here’s everything you need to know.
When does winter begin?
There are actually two ways of calculating the first day of winter, depending on whether you follow the meteorological or definitions of the seasons.
But, whichever one you follow, both are happening in December.
Meteorological autumn will begin first, beginning on Thursday 1 December, followed by astronomical autumn which will begin on Wednesday 21 December.
What’s the difference between meteorological winter and astronomical winter?
These are the key differences between meteorological winter and astronomical winter, and how the date of each is determined.
The meteorological winter date is the easiest to work out.
It is based on the simple principle that the year is split into four seasons, and that each of these seasons are made up of three full months, as per the Gregorian calendar.
This definition makes it easier to compare seasonal and monthly statistics, and means that every season starts on the same date every year.
This means that every year winter begins on 1 December 2022 and lasts until 28 February 2023, or on 29 February 2023 if it is a leap year, with spring then starting on 1 March 2023.
The astronomical season is less straightforward to work out as it can change every year.
The astronomical calendar determines the seasons due to the 23.5 degrees of tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis in relation to its orbit around the sun.
Both equinoxes and solstices are related to the Earth’s orbit around the sun. There are two equinoxes a year; the spring equinox and the autumn equinox, and also two solstices a year; the summer solstice and the winter solstice.
The dates of the equinox and solstice aren’t fixed each year, however, due to the Earth’s elliptical orbit of the sun.
This year, astronomical winter begins on Wednesday 21 December 2022 and ends on Monday 20 March 2023.
What is the winter solstice?
The winter solstice, also called the hibernal solstice, occurs when either of Earth’s poles reaches its maximum tilt away from the sun.
The winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, when the sun is at its lowest daily maximum elevation in the sky.
The winter solstice occurs during the hemisphere’s winter. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is the December solstice, and usually takes place each year on 21 or 22 December.
The term midwinter is also used synonymously with the winter solstice. Traditionally, in many temperate regions, such as the UK, the winter solstice is seen as the middle of winter.
Other names for the winter solstice are also the extreme of winter or the shortest day.
The winter solstice 2022 is due to take place on Wednesday 21 December at 9.48pm.
The number of daylight hours on the shortest day will be 7 hours, 49 minutes and 42 seconds.
That’s 8 hours, 48 minutes and 38 seconds shorter than the summer solstice, when daylight hours are at a maximum.
When will winter end?
There are also two ways of calculating the last day of winter,
According to the metrological measure of the seasons, the last day of winter will be Tuesday 28 February 2023, with spring then starting on Wednesday 1 March 2023.
But, the astrological measure of the seasons states that the last day of winter will be on Sunday 19 March 2023, followed by the first day of spring on Monday 20 March 2023.