Brighter days: Minnesota gaining 3 minutes of daylight per day now

The darkest four months of the year are behind us.

Bright sun at solar noon over the Weather Lab
Bright sun at solar noon over the Weather Lab
Paul Huttner/MPR News

Do you notice a spring in your step these days? One reason may be the rapidly increasing daylight we’re feeling now in Minnesota.

Here are some benchmarks on our rapidly increasing daylight:

  • We’re now two months past the winter solstice and shortest daylight of the year.

  • The darkest four months of the year are now behind us.

  • We’ve gained more than two hours of daylight since the winter solstice in late December.

  • Minnesota is now gaining three minutes of daylight per day.

  • Sunset time in the Twin Cities reaches 6 p.m. on Monday.

  • “Nautical twilight” reaches 7 p.m. in the Twin Cities this weekend. That means there is still a glow in the western sky until around 7 p.m. on clear evenings.

Daylight and solar data for late February
Daylight and solar data for late February in the Twin Cities

Melting snow faster

The sun angle over Minnesota this week is equal to mid-October. At solar noon, the sun is 36 degrees above the southern horizon. That means more incoming solar energy to heat the ground and melt snow on sunny days.

Once snow cover disappears, the sun is more efficient at warmings the lower atmosphere. A much higher percentage of the sun’s energy is available to warm the air near the ground.

Albedo snow cover
Huttner, Paul

That can add as much as 10 degrees to air temperatures versus days with fresh snow cover.

We know we can still get bouts of snow and cold in March and even April. But any wintry remnants are fighting a losing battle against increasing amounts of solar energy as daylight rapidly increases, and the sun rises higher into the sky each day.

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