Spring is just around the corner. The days will keep getting longer until the vernal equinox March 20.

File photo

Spring is just around the corner. The days will keep getting longer until the vernal equinox March 20.

Tom Ross: Happy Nerd Year, everyone

In case you hadn't noticed, the days are getting longer


Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Tom here.

— Perhaps the rest of you climate nerds hadn't noticed, but spring is just around the corner. Already, the days are getting longer in Steamboat Springs, and it's all downhill to the vernal equinox on March 20.

OK, I know. The thermometer soared to 3 degrees at 2 p.m. Friday. Winter is in full swing. But even if I can't promise you mild temperatures this weekend, I can promise you more daylight today than you enjoyed yesterday.

To be precise, we'll see nine hours and 19 minutes of daylight today, not including the pre-dawn and twilight minutes. That's only seconds more daylight - not even a minute - than we enjoyed on Friday. But I'll take it.

The sun will not set today until 4:49 p.m. Ain't life grand? On New Year's Eve, the sun won't slip out of sight until after 4:50 p.m. That's what I'm sayin'! The days are getting longer.

But there's even better news. With every day that passes, the increment by which the amount of daylight increases, grows. In other words, every day, the amount of daylight grows by more than it did the previous day.

At Steamboat's latitude, 40.5 degrees north, the amount of daylight will increase by 11 minutes from Jan. 10 to Jan. 20, 2008. You can expect the sun to set at 4:59 p.m. on Jan. 10, but if you'd like to plan a barbecue on the deck on Jan. 20, the sun will hang around the horizon until 5:10 p.m.

And by the way, I'm not making this stuff up. My source is the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Some of you might be thinking, "Tom, you need to relax about the arrival of spring. There's a lot of skiing left to be done."

I get your point. But when I rose from bed Friday morning, long before the sun rose, I picked up a book by Rick Bass called "The Lost Grizzlies." It's about a trio of backpackers who trek deep into the San Juan Mountains of Colorado in search of nasty bears. I can't help myself - the book started me daydreaming about summer and Alpine lakes.

So, if you're like me, and you think the days in Steamboat are too short right now, you could fix that by moving to Durango, where the latitude is 37.3 degrees. The sun won't go down today in Durango until 5:02 p.m., a full 13 minutes after it retires for the night in Steamboat.

By Jan. 10, Durango will see 9 hours and 46 minutes of daylight compared to 9 hours and 29 minutes in Steamboat. The sun won't go down in Durango until 5:12 p.m. that night.

On the other hand, if you like really long nights, you could move to Bozeman, Mont., where the sun will slip behind the mountains at 4:48 p.m. today. On Jan. 10, Bozeman residents will see just 8 hours and 55 minutes of daylight.

No matter where you decide to spend the winter, one thing that's certain is that all of us are going to arrive at the vernal equinox on the same day, and enjoy equal hours of daylight and darkness. On March 20, 2008, the center of the sun will be directly above the earth's equator, spending equal amounts of time above and below the horizon.

Celestial mechanics and the way the earth tilts on its axis dictates that at this time of year, days are longer at southern latitudes and shorter at northern latitudes. As we approach the equinox, the rate of change in daylight hours proceeds at an accelerated pace at northern latitudes in order for them to "catch up" to the southern latitudes.

So, if you'd like to see your days get longer, faster this spring, move to Bozeman - or even better, Fairbanks.

If, instead, you want longer days right now, head for Durango. Or if you're really in a hurry, El Paso.

Alternately, if you want to ski your fannies off this winter, stay right here in the 'Boat.

And, if you're a nerd like I am, go to the Web site of the U.S. Naval Observatory at http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.php, where you can quickly learn that the sun won't set in El Paso today until 5:11 p.m.

To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com


handyman 9 years, 3 months ago

The picture caption says, "Spring is just around the corner. The days will keep getting longer until the vernal equinox March 20." What do the days do between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice? Last time I checked, the days keep getting longer until June 20th or so.


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