Last week, we reached the peak of the long dark nights as we celebrated the winter solstice, which occurred precisely at 2:57 am New Zealand Time on Thursday, June 22.
This significant event marks the moment when the Earth begins its gradual journey back towards summer for the Southern Hemisphere. Similar to the longest day in summer, there is a delay with the temperatures following the winter solstice.
The hottest weather tends to arrive weeks later, in late January and February. Likewise, the coldest weather is experienced in July and August, well after the shortest day has passed.
Despite the cold, many people choose to focus on the positive aspects of the winter solstice, such as the gradual lengthening of daylight hours.
The winter solstice is a precise moment in time that occurs because Earth’s axis of rotation is tilted about 23.4 degrees relative to its orbit around the sun. On this day, the sun reaches its northernmost point, resulting in the Southern Hemisphere experiencing the day with the least amount of sunlight, while the Northern Hemisphere enjoys its “longest day of the year.”
In the coming weeks, the days will gradually and ever so slightly start to get longer again, albeit by just a few seconds or minutes initially. Most farmers and early risers typically notice the lengthening days and extra sunlight again by the last week of July and the first week of August, which is around one month from now. Some people in the northern parts of New Zealand claim that early August can feel more like spring, although it’s important to note that unpredictability reigns, as evidenced by the occurrence of snow flurries in Auckland city and the hills of Northland back in 2011. The next three months hold various surprises for us in New Zealand.
While many calendars publish the winter solstice date and time in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), indicating 2:57 pm on Wednesday (England time), it is essential to remember that in New Zealand, the solstice occurred at 2:57 am on Thursday.