Here’s why CNY’s earliest sunset of the year is not on the Winter Solstice

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — When you think of the shortest amount of daylight, you probably think of the first day of winter.

This year, the winter solstice falls on December 21. While that is the day when we have the least amount of daylight, it’s not when we have our earliest sunset. That happens the first couple of weeks of December for the midlatitudes which includes Syracuse.

From December 4 through December 15 the sunset is at its earliest in Syracuse at 4:29 p.m.

Why is it not on the 21st?

There is about a 2-week difference between our earliest sunset and the winter solstice because our days are not exactly 24 hours.

Because of Earth’s elliptical orbit and the tilt of its axis, our solar days, or the time between solar noon, isn’t exactly 24 hours. At the solstice, it’s a little longer than 24 hours.

Our solar noon, which is when the sun is at its highest point in the sky, isn’t exactly at noon every day either. After the solstice, solar noon is a little later each day, so our sunrise is a little later each day too.

So while the “shortest day” may be technically December 21, with 8 hours, 59 minutes, and 55 seconds of daylight, we’ll have our earlier sunsets through December 15.

Then the sun will start setting later in the day in Syracuse.

It won’t be until the first week in January when our sunrises begin getting earlier! The latest sunrise in Syracuse will be January 5, 2024, at 7:36 a.m. By then we would have gained enough time with the later sunset for an increase of over 8 minutes of daylight.

Check out here for more details on Syracuse’s sunrise and sunset times.

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