Fall in the Midwest brings with it cooler temperatures and falling leaves, but it also means we see our biggest decline of daylight for the entire year.
As we get closer to the winter solstice, our amount of daylight continues to rapidly decrease. While we enjoyed more than twelve hours of daylight for a good chunk of the late spring and many of the summer months, that trend is now rapidly changing. Right now we see around 11 hours of daylight each day. By the beginning of November, that amount will shrink to just a little more than 10 hours of daylight, meaning darkness will set in before 5:30 in the evening. While the end of Daylight Saving Time in early November will certainly nudge that sunset time up a bit, too.
All of this has to do with how the sun's energy is distributed across the planet. This time of year, most of the sun's energy begins to become more focused near the equator. Here in the Quad Cities and much of North American in General, we receive the lowest amount of incoming solar energy for the year, hence why we have a winter season. The less energy received from the sun, the less warmth you'll have. With all of that energy being focused further south, that doesn't leave much for us to work with here during the winter season. In October, the sun's warmth is still quite noticeable. On a sunny day, despite cool temperatures outside, letting some sun into your home or vehicle will warm the interior up quite efficiently. Sadly, the window of opportunity to take advantage of this setup is short-lived.
By the time we reach the winter solstice in December, the amount of energy we receive from the sun here in the Quad Cities as at its lowest. You'll definitely notice that the warming effect isn't nearly as pronounced compared to that strong spring, summer, or fall sunshine. The shorter days don't help either, meaning whatever sunshine we do see won't have a lot of time to do much work in terms of warming things up.
That begins to quickly turn around though as we work through January and February. That's when more of the sun's energy begins to migrate northward again. So, while we've got a while to wait for that turnaround to take place, at least take comfort in knowing that the worst arrives in the next couple of months before things start to get better again!
Meteorologist Andrew Stutzke
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