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Day 266 – Winter Solstice

December 21, 2014

Song of the Day: Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles

Today is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, or the Winter Solstice as we call it. I love the Winter Solstice because it means the days are now getting longer, i.e. more daylight, less nightdark. Of course, the nearer you get to the Equator the less of a difference this makes.

One of the best things about living in the frozen northern reaches of the planet is that summer nights go on for ages. One of my biggest disappointments on arriving in Qatar was the fall of night at about 6pm in the middle of summer. It also happens to be the most unpleasant time of day, weather wise. The sun going down seems to be the cue for the humidity to rise and engulf you like a stifling wet blanket. A simple exercise like popping out for a couple of eggs becomes tantamount to swimming the Channel. You come back dripping wet and gasping for air.

The real shock is the speed with which the sun sets. In England it takes a while to think before finally dipping below the horizon. In Qatar it just dives straight in. One second it’s there, the next it’s gone. I mentioned this apparently hasty disappearance of the sun to my dad once and he said, somewhat disdainfully I must say, something along the lines of, “Of course. It goes down more or less vertically, doesn’t it?” I think he oversimplified it, so I looked it up and the explanation I found is this:-

Because the Earth’s circumference is longest at the Equator (about 25,000 miles), the terminator (the line between sunlight and dark) travels across the Earth at approximately 1,000mph (25,000 miles / 24 hours). The Earth’s circumference at London’s latitude is about 16,000 miles, so the terminator travels at 666mph. Hence, the sun sets at two-thirds of the speed it sets at the Equator. In Doha, on the 25th parallel, the terminator travels at 937mph.

Is this right? Until I hear otherwise, I’ll assume it is.


From → qatar, Sights, uk

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