Diminishing Days Described: When Do The Days Start Getting Shorter?

Akinwalere Olaleye
Feb 29, 2024 By Akinwalere Olaleye
Originally Published on Oct 11, 2021
This effect is observed because the axis of the Earth
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.3 Min

The diminishing of days is a phenomenon that occurs every year.

There is a time in the year when the length of a day starts getting shorter and shorter. We will see in detail how and why this happens.

To understand why the days get shorter, we should first understand the phenomenon of seasons. Earth revolves around the sun and rotates around its axis. Earth has a slightly tilted axis for rotation and revolution. When the North Pole of this tilt is pointing towards the sun, the Northern Hemisphere experiences summer, and the Southern Hemisphere experiences winter. And when the South Pole has a tilt towards the sun the situation is vice versa. It should be prominently noted that the days of summer are larger than the days of winter. So it is safe to say the length of the day starts getting shorter as the season changes from summer to winter. The change in length of days and nights is marked by the two solstices. The two solstices are summer solstice and winter solstice.

After reading all about diminishing days, do read about why do we have day and night and when do the planets align.

What is the shortest day of the year?

On Earth, the time between two sunrises is approximately 24 hours. That means planet Earth takes 24 hours to complete one rotation. The time between sunrise and sunset changes every day. This time is dependent on the position of the sun in the sky. Earth is spherical in shape and has a tilted axis. The more the axis is tilted the shorter the day becomes. Hence, when the axis is tilted away from the sun at the maximum possible angle Earth experiences the shortest day. Each hemisphere of the Earth experiences its shortest days separately.

The shortest day of the year, according to the solar cycle, is called the winter solstice. The winter solstice falls on a different day for the Northern Hemisphere and different for the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day of the year falls in December whereas for the Southern Hemisphere it falls in June. Earthlings call these two events the December solstice and June solstice. The shortest day of the year for the Northern Hemisphere is on 21 December each year. And for the Southern Hemisphere, it is on 21 June (sometimes 20 June). The winter solstice occurs in the middle of winter for most countries but for some countries, it occurs at the start of winter. Nevertheless, the winter solstice or the shortest day of the year is experienced during the winter when the sun is positioned most away from the axis of the earth. The winter solstice is completely the opposite of the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year. The shortest day of the year marks the end of the shortening of the days and lengthening of the nights and the beginning of the lengthening of the days and shortening of the nights. Some cultures believe the winter solstice to be the symbolic death and rebirth of the sun.

Do days start getting shorter after the summer solstice?

The summer solstice is the completely opposite phenomenon of the winter solstice. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year. It occurs twice a year, once each for each Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Most countries experience the summer solstice in midsummer. Every year, the summer solstice lies on 21 June (or 22 June) for the Northern Hemisphere and on 21 December for the Southern Hemisphere. Whenever the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing the winter solstice, the Southern Hemisphere experiences the summer solstice and vice versa. On the day of the summer solstice, people get to enjoy the longest day of sunlight and the shortest night of the year. Let's see what happens post-summer solstice in July.

For the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs on 21 June. Ever since the winter solstice, the axis of the earth starts tilting more and more towards the sun. At the time of the summer solstice, the axis of the earth is titled maximum towards the sun. This gives planet earth the maximum amount of daylight and the least amount of darkness. The day of the summer solstice marks the reversal of the process of the axis of the earth tilting towards the sun. Since then, the axis starts tilting away from the sun, creating an angle of a few degrees. This angle even though it starts with a few degrees goes on increasing until the time of the winter solstice. The tilting of the axis away from the sun causes the daytime light to become shorter and shorter. The days begin to become shorter and the nights longer in July. That is why the days start getting shorter after 21 June in the Northern Hemisphere. As the summer solstice for the Southern Hemisphere is on 21 December, the days of the Southern Hemisphere start getting shorter after 21 December.

Why do days get shorter and darker with autumn?

Each hemisphere of the Earth experiences its shortest days separately

Planet Earth revolves around the sun in an elliptical orbit. The conjunction of the effect of the earth's elliptical orbit and tilted axis causes different amounts of daylight to be available each day. The length of daylight also depends on where on Earth are you located. The latitudes closer to the poles receive minimum sunlight while the Equator receives maximum sunlight. But apart from this, we have established that the amount of daytime changes every moment for each point on planet Earth. And this change is dependent on the position of the earth's axis and its location in the orbit.

The seasons on earth change every few months. Summer turns into autumn, autumn into winter, winter into spring, and spring into summer. The change from summer to autumn is very remarkable. The shortening of the days is the main mark of the Earth entering the autumn season. It has to be noted that the Northern Hemisphere experiences a completely opposite season as the Southern Hemisphere. Autumn starts immediately after summer. Hence, the time autumn sets foot, the summer solstice has already passed. Since the day of the summer solstice, the sunlight starts getting lesser and also the days shorter. This effect is observed because the axis of the Earth is tilting away from the sun. Due to this, a lesser and lesser amount of sunlight reaches the earth's surface. There is a point in autumn when the amount of day is exactly equal to the amount of night. This time of the year when the daytime is equal to the nighttime is called the Equinox. After the autumn Equinox, the amount of nighttime becomes longer as compared to the daytime. So the days get shorter in autumn after the Equinox. Also, the tilting of the axis away from the sun causes more darkness than before the Equinox. Hence, days get shorter and darker in autumn. And vice versa happens in spring. In spring, in January, the days get longer and brighter.

Why are days shorter in winter?

From the start of the spring equinox, the day gets longer than the night. Likewise, from the start of the autumn equinox, the day gets shorter than the night.

The Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere experience winter at different times. When there is winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the Southern Hemisphere is enjoying summer, and the winter in the Southern Hemisphere marks summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Even though the season cycles are completely opposite in both the Hemispheres, the process is exactly the same. In both the Hemispheres, the days are shorter and less daylight is available in the winters. The solar cycle works efficiently each year to ensure that the days in winter are shorter. You will be surprised to know that not all the days in winter are short. Let's find out how and why that is.

The start of winter is signaled by growing cold and darkness. The earth is farthest from the sun at the time of winter. Due to this, the sunlight makes a shallow angle with the earth. This shallow angle results in less sunlight reaching the surface of the planet earth. In addition to this, the axis of the earth is tilted away from the sun as winter approaches. The earth's axis makes a maximum angle with the perpendicular until there comes a point when it reaches an angle of 23.5 degrees. This is the maximum angle possible. The day this happens is called the winter solstice. As the earth has been angling away from the sun as much as possible it becomes difficult for enough sunlight to reach the planet's surface. That is why the days in winter are shorter. And after the winter solstice, the days start becoming longer and longer little by little.

How to deal with shorter days?

The winter solstice in 2021 will be observed on 21 December 2021.

Shorter days of light are a common phenomenon at the upper latitudes. But at the Equator, the days and nights are usually 12 hours. The time of day and night at the Equator remains about the same i.e 12 hours. But other parts of the world have to bear with the shorter days. Humans are known to thrive in the daylight. The nights are not that productive as sunlight is a source of energy for a number of activities. Dealing with the shorter days is not an easy task. It affects the mental and physical well-being of a person. To effectively get through shorter days you should undertake certain measures. These will ensure that you are less negatively affected by the shorter days and less sunlight.

One of the most effective measures is exercise. Exercising boosts your metabolism. The secretion of endorphins lifts up your mood most effectively. For people experiencing seasonal depression, exercise is a very healthy option. An outdoor workout during the sunlight hours will not only give you the physical benefits but your body will also be able to absorb necessary vitamins and nutrients from the sun. The best time to exercise during shorter days is just before lunch. Another effective measure to deal with shorter days is to set up a timetable. Devise your schedule in such a way that you spend all your sunny hours doing something productive. Getting early to bed and rising before the hours of sunlight will help you to get the maximum sunny hours. A well-planned timetable will help you achieve this goal. Take the information about sunrises and sunsets from reliable sources and use those times as markers to plan out your entire day. The most important thing to keep in mind is to get the most of the sunlight. Even though you feel there is a sign of extreme cold outside, getting that sunlight is very important. Get in the warm sunlight, and experience how your mood will immediately be lifted.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for when do the days start getting shorter, then why not take a look at why do seasons change, or why do the clocks go back?

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Written by Akinwalere Olaleye

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Akinwalere Olaleye picture

Akinwalere OlaleyeBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

As a highly motivated, detail-oriented, and energetic individual, Olaleye's expertise lies in administrative and management operations. With extensive knowledge as an Editor and Communications Analyst, Olaleye excels in editing, writing, and media relations. Her commitment to upholding professional ethics and driving organizational growth sets her apart. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State. 

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