Don't despair - it's getting lighter!

THANK heavens Christmas is just around the corner, because this really is the most miserable time of the year in other ways.For those of us with jobs at “normal” hours we don't see the garden from 3.

THANK heavens Christmas is just around the corner, because this really is the most miserable time of the year in other ways.

For those of us with jobs at “normal” hours we don't see the garden from 3.30pm on Sunday until 9am on Saturday.

You know the birds are visiting because by Saturday morning the feeders are all empty, but you don't get the pleasure of seeing them visit!

But things are getting better - because tonight the sunset a minute later than it did last night. The long haul out of winter has begun.

That's not to say we've reached the shortest day yet! That doesn't come until Saturday. One of the quirks at this time of the year is that the sunset gets later in the afternoon while the sunrise continues to get later in the morning.

Star weatherman Ken Blowers explained that is because the earth's orbit of the sun is not a perfect circle - it is an ellipse.

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“You notice it now as the sunset and the sunrise both get later. In fact the sunrise doesn't start to get earlier again until January 4,” he said.

But it's the lighter evenings that you really start to notice. At the start it happens slowly. There's a minute extra today and by Friday there's another extra minute.

By the end of Christmas week there's a further five minutes in the afternoon - and from then on things start motoring!

In mid-January sunset is 20 minutes later than it is now and a month later it will still be light by the time we get home at 5pm. What bliss!

It's not just the daylight hours that define winter - the weather also has much to do with how we define winter and forecasters at the government's Met Office reckon we're going to have a pretty average time over the next few months.

They expect the winter to be slightly milder than the long-term average, but cooler than last year when it was exceptionally mild.

They also expect it to be slightly wetter than average - but again much less wet than last year which set the tone for the year with heavy rain during the first three months.

That should mean we start to see the first of the spring flowers poke through in January or February, but whether there is a carpet of daffodils by St David's Day on March 1 is still very uncertain.

And before we reach the new year, the big question everyone is asking is: “What are the chances of a White Christmas?”

According to the Met Office forecast for the next month, during Christmas week the weather will change from cold dry weather to milder wet weather.

That could lead to snow showers at the start of the change - but they are more likely to fall on Christmas Eve than on the day itself.

And by December 25 temperatures should have risen enough for any of the white stuff to disappear.

But that is still a week away . . . and anything could happen between now and then!

Did you know: The shortest day of the year in Ipswich has seven hours and 44 minutes of daylight.

The longest day has 16 hours and 46 minutes of sunshine.

Source: www.gaisma.com

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