Bright side: Minnesota rapidly gaining daylight now

We're gaining two minutes of daylight each day. That rises to 3 minutes a day in a month.

Bright blue winter sky at the Weather Lab
Bright blue winter sky at the Weather Lab.
Paul Huttner/MPR News

Have you noticed it’s getting brighter out there Minnesota?

Yes, it’s still bitterly cold outside. And we’re moving through the coldest two weeks of the year climatologically.

But I prefer to think of it this way. The darkest two months of the year in Minnesota are now behind us. Earth’s orbit is taking us away from the darkest days of December, and toward the vernal equinox in March.

Seasons occur because the Earth is tilted on its axis by 23.5 degrees. The tilt's orientation does not change during the year. So the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the sun in June and away from the sun in December.

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Earth's orbit and the seasons
Earth's orbit and the seasons
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Gaining daylight fast

Since the winter solstice on Dec. 21, we’ve already gained 32 minutes of daylight. And we’re now gaining more than two minutes of daylight each day.

Here’s a look at the precise daylight times for Minneapolis:

Daylight graph for the Twin Cities
Daylight graph for the Twin Cities.

Our daily daylight gain grows to 2 minutes and 32 seconds by Jan. 31. And we’ll gain three minutes a day starting on Feb. 20.

Lag of seasons

If we’re getting more daylight, why is our coldest time of year about a month after the winter solstice in late December? It’s called “seasonal lag.”

Think of it as turning on your stove with a pot of cold water. The burner is getting hotter, but it takes time for the colder water to absorb that increased thermal energy. In winter, the solar burner we call the sun is warming very slowly.

The shortest day is around Dec. 21. The coldest day on average in Minnesota occurs this week.

Coldest day of the year on average
Coldest day of the year on average.

The average high and low temperatures for the Twin Cities this week are 23 degrees and 8 degrees. But in a month, those temperatures averages rise to 30 degrees and 14 degrees. The higher sun angle and longer days are having an impact by then.

So as we move through the coldest week of winter, know this: That higher sun angle and longer daylight will begin to have a bigger impact warming our frigid temperatures soon.

Hang in there Minnesota.