thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter etc.

otorongo
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thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter etc.

Post by otorongo » Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:33 pm

There are 2 things we don't like about winter - the weak sun/short days, and the cold temps. The too are obviously connected, but they only partially overlap, due to the thermal inertia of land and water - the temps are always behind the sun as things take time to cool down (and then warm up). So while the sun's rock-bottom is on the 21st Dec, statistically the coldest day of the year falls somewhere in early February, roughly 6 weeks after the Winter Solstice.

Most people define winter in terms of temps, and to them, winter is only just beginning. In a sense they're right - they don't know how to leverage the power of the sun, so it's the temps that matter to them.

I, on the other hand, tend to put much more importance on the sun, and I think that's a more positive way of looking at winter.

With the weak Dec sun, you're a slave to the weather - when it's cold it's cold and there is nothing you can do.
Jan and Feb are statistically cooler, but the sun is higher, which makes all the difference to the microclimates that we build in our gardens in order to be able to grow tropicals.

In February when it's cold but the sun is out, you can sit in the sun in a black t-shirt and pretend it's 20C even if it's only 7C. It will feel gorgeous. Similarly, your sheltered microclimates, dark coloured brick walls, concrete, etc. as well as greenhouses and conservatories will be much warmer than the official air temp.

In December, a 15C day would be considered very mild, but the solar gain would be so low it would feel like maybe 18C in the shade, which is too cold for sitting in a t-shirt for more than an hour. So why think of February as being worse than December? It's far better!!!

In 10 days, we'll hit [my] mid-winter and things will start getting better again. So let's not despair that winter is coming... we're already almost halfway through it if we know how to work with nature. At the moment the thermal inertia is our ally; when it starts being a foe, the sun will be strong enough to make an alliance with icon_sunny


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Re: thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter e

Post by Dave Brown » Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:46 pm

In the documentary 'Orbit' apparently the coldest day in the northern hemisphere is 19th January, as up to that point it is still cooling but after that time solar input is greater than heat loss :)

I am acutely aware of the solar cycle as my home relies on passive solar heating to offset heating bills, that is why I have been so frustrated with the unusual continuous gloom this solar winter. It adds to my bill everyday the sun doesn't shine :roll:

I also wear black T shirts below 20C, and have been called a Druid, even crossing the road several times to stay on the sunny side :lol:
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Re: thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter e

Post by cordyman » Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:27 pm

otorongo wrote:There are 2 things we don't like about winter - the weak sun/short days, and the cold temps. The too are obviously connected, but they only partially overlap, due to the thermal inertia of land and water - the temps are always behind the sun as things take time to cool down (and then warm up). So while the sun's rock-bottom is on the 21st Dec, statistically the coldest day of the year falls somewhere in early February, roughly 6 weeks after the Winter Solstice.

Most people define winter in terms of temps, and to them, winter is only just beginning. In a sense they're right - they don't know how to leverage the power of the sun, so it's the temps that matter to them.

I, on the other hand, tend to put much more importance on the sun, and I think that's a more positive way of looking at winter.

With the weak Dec sun, you're a slave to the weather - when it's cold it's cold and there is nothing you can do.
Jan and Feb are statistically cooler, but the sun is higher, which makes all the difference to the microclimates that we build in our gardens in order to be able to grow tropicals.

In February when it's cold but the sun is out, you can sit in the sun in a black t-shirt and pretend it's 20C even if it's only 7C. It will feel gorgeous. Similarly, your sheltered microclimates, dark coloured brick walls, concrete, etc. as well as greenhouses and conservatories will be much warmer than the official air temp.

In December, a 15C day would be considered very mild, but the solar gain would be so low it would feel like maybe 18C in the shade, which is too cold for sitting in a t-shirt for more than an hour. So why think of February as being worse than December? It's far better!!!

In 10 days, we'll hit [my] mid-winter and things will start getting better again. So let's not despair that winter is coming... we're already almost halfway through it if we know how to work with nature. At the moment the thermal inertia is our ally; when it starts being a foe, the sun will be strong enough to make an alliance with icon_sunny
Closing the year with a very thought provoking fantastic post Otorongo icon_salut icon_salut icon_salut icon_thumleft

Enjoyed reading that.

My perspective from last week we had a 12*c day, scattered clouds, light breeze, and the breeze felt warm, in just a shirt at work, felt a lot more like 15*c, very pleasant.


So I look forward even more now to jan+feb with the high sun and i'll try out some of my microclimates on sunny days, perhaps even indulging in a cold beer! or would that be pushing it a ltitle :lol:


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Re: thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter e

Post by cheshirepalms » Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:38 pm

Everything is relative too, I recorded 13.2c on the 9/12 and it felt lovely, the air was noticeably warm at 6am, with no influence from the sun. Today it was sunny but only 7.7c, and god did I notice it! I wouldn't consider 7c to be cold in December though, but we notice the change. 7c would feel nice if it had been 0c the previous day. It really bugs me when, for example people moan that its cold and in fact its above average for the time of year. eg 10c in January.


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Re: thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter e

Post by Adam D » Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:44 pm

I like your thoughts, but the thought of sitting outside in February with short sleeves on up here makes me feel brrrr!

I can appreciate it is different down south though.


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Re: thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter e

Post by otorongo » Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:08 am

Dave Brown wrote:In the documentary 'Orbit' apparently the coldest day in the northern hemisphere is 19th January, as up to that point it is still cooling but after that time solar input is greater than heat loss :)
Depends where you are. In the UK I think it's 4th Feb, due to the water surrounding us, which keeps the heat longer.
Dave Brown wrote:I also wear black T shirts below 20C, and have been called a Druid, even crossing the road several times to stay on the sunny side :lol:
Same here :lol:

But most people live in ignorance or just don't care.

In October I met a guy from India who had lived in London for 5 years, we were outside in the sun and he made a comment "It's 12, so the sun should be overhead, right?" I explained to him that the sun is never overhead here, and if it was, it would be hot, and the closer to the winter solstice the lower it rises etc., and he was very surprised to hear that. He thought the sun was always overhead at noon, can you imagine that? :roll: OK maybe that's the case in his native India (more or less), but one would have thought it would have taken him less than 5 years to notice things are different here.

We have a terrace at the office and I always have lunch outside when it's sunny. It's the only opportunity for me to get some daylight during the week, so I make damn sure I make the best of it. In the winter I'm the only one using the terrace, and people look weird at me. But I wear black and always sit in the sun.
A few weeks ago it was mild and sunny and a few other people came out to dine outside. I was the only one sitting in the sun. The others were in the shade and probably didn't even realize that. :roll:

I don't know what to think of my colleagues when they say "It's sunny outside, what a lovely day" and they roll down the blinds and spend all day in the office, lunch included.

I always make it a point to have lunch around solar noon (unless e.g. it's overcast and it's obvious it's going to clear up, say, half an hour later - then I wait), which is 12pm winter time and 1pm summer time. Sometimes it's so warm in the sun I take off my jumper (which I wear in the office) and sit outside in a t-shirt, while everybody else is inside in jumpers :lol: And on coming back inside I put my jumper on.

I always look at the clouds and in which direction they're moving to predict when the next gap in the clouds is going to move in so I can take photos, or when to go outside and where to sit etc. Sometimes I climb objects to catch the low winter sun. And I always analyse which side of the bus or boat to sit on to get the most sun icon_sunny

But people don't give a hoot. Sometimes they notice "oh, you're in the sun and I'm not!" without giving it much thought, and 10 seconds later they forget. But most of the time they don't even notice. What's wrong with people? :cry:

It pees me off when those who don't care for the sun take the sunniest spot and moan about it being too hot or too bright and put parasols over their heads, roll down blinds, etc. while I'm in the shade because there is no space left for me in the sun.


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Re: thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter e

Post by madgav » Thu Dec 12, 2013 9:19 am

Great read :)

But another factor is the wind. If it's windy at all (which it usually is here in winter) with typical winter temps it's definitely not weather for sitting outside, sunny or not. The last 3 weeks have been an exception since it's been calm(ish) and dry as well as mild. But I still see people wearing heavy coats and scarves in 12-13C temps??? Why??? When it's 12-13C in March/April they'll be wearing t-shirts :roll:
And yes, complaining about it being cold in 10C+ in December.... that one annoys me too :roll:
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Re: thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter e

Post by madgav » Thu Dec 12, 2013 9:25 am

I always quite like the reaching February. It always seems we've turned a corner with the day length and sun angle, if not with the average temps. That in itself makes me feel much better.
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Re: thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter e

Post by Yorkshire Kris » Thu Dec 12, 2013 9:37 am

An interesting thread! icon_thumleft
For me I was always taught the four seasons started on the 21st. So Spring 21st March, Summer 21st June, Autumn 21st September and winter starting on 21st December. Seems roughly right weather wise this year (apart from spring which didn't happen this year!)


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Re: thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter e

Post by Nigel » Thu Dec 12, 2013 10:31 am

February is far from worst month, not least because its only 28 days , but also spring is around the corner. My tunnels will get as warm on the coldest day of the year 6th feb, as they will in early November. The tunnels get almost no warming effect in december. For me the worst month is January.
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Re: thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter e

Post by multim » Thu Dec 12, 2013 10:40 am

The Winter solstice is probably my favourite day of the year. This is the day I have my Winter feast and not the 25th. Sure it will get colder, much the same as it usually gets warmer after the Summer solstice. For me, get the 21st of Dec behind us and the lighter days will follow. I really hope that this forthcoming March will be a normal March, unlike that stinker we had to suffer this year.
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Re: thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter e

Post by Blairs » Thu Dec 12, 2013 10:55 am

For me the 4 seasons are:

Winter: Dec-mid Feb
Spring: mid Feb-mid May
Summer: mid May- late Sept
Autumn: late Sept-Nov

I prefer the long days of sunlight of summer as it gives me more options and 6pm does not feel like bedtime. It is currently dark by 4pm here and soon it will be after 9am to get light then 3.30pm to get dark again - so it sucks. On saying that I used to enjoy coming home in the dark when I worked in an office (I work from home or client site now).

I never thought of wearing black to soak up the heat, I own no black clothes at all, so not really an option. I always pick the sunniest spot to sit though.


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Re: thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter e

Post by cordyman » Wed Jan 08, 2014 8:44 pm

Otorongo, thought i'd share my winter midday suntrap, I sit on the steps which capture the low sun, wall and tall bamboo shelter to the right, and have a nice coffee drunken_smilie1

As long as the suns out, and i'm wearing something dark, its rather nice icon_sunny icon_cheers


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Re: thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter e

Post by Tom2006 » Wed Jan 08, 2014 11:10 pm

I see the 22nd dec as the beginning of the end for winter as the days begin to lengthen. I know deep down jan and feb statically are colder but with my garden being south facing the sun makes all the difference. I pretty nuch dont care what happens for the rest of the year once we hit April snd the garden comes to life again.
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Re: thoughts on solstice, sun, temps, definition of winter e

Post by otorongo » Tue Jan 21, 2014 2:20 pm

Great sun trap, Cordy!

We have one at the office on the terrace, a corner defined by a SW and SE facing wall. No wind and gets all the midday sun icon_sunny Always have lunch in a t-shirt there when the sun is out.

The sun is already 3.5 deg higher, and the sun traps make a bigger difference every day icon_cheers


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