Perihelion and Latest Sunrise

January 3rd, 2013 at 2:46 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

The sun is closer to the Earth in early January than at any other time of the year. The sun actually reached it’s closest point to Earth yesterday, January 2nd and that is called Perihelion. The sun is actually 3 million miles closer to Earth now than it is in the first week of July. Also, the sun’s light is actually 7% brighter in the first week of January than in the first week of July. Keep in mind that the sun is dimmer as it gets closer to the horizon and shines through a larger layer of air (and dust). You can look at a sunrise or sunset, because the sun isn’t as bright as it is when it has to come through the larger layer of air. I know what some of you are thinking…how come we have the coldest weather when the sun is closest to us? Our seasons are caused by the Earth tilting toward and away from the sun. Today, the sun climbs to only about 25 degrees above the horizon at solar noon (about 12:50 PM) and it stays out for 9 hours and 7 minutes.  We’ve gained 7 minutes of daylight since the Winter Solstice back on 12/21.   In the first week of July, when we have Aphelion (Earth farthest from the sun), the sun climbs to 70 degrees above the horizon at solar noon and it’s out for 15 hours and 6 minutes. If Perihelion and Aphelion were reversed, with the Earth closest to the sun in July, West Michigan would be 3 degrees colder in January and 3 degrees hotter in July.  Today (Jan. 3) we also have our latest sunrise of the winter at 8:14 AM.  We are now gaining about one minute of daylight each day.   Interesting fact: If you could drive toward the sun continuously at 55 mph today, it would take you 196 years to reach the sun if it were 94.5 million miles away (roughly the time between World Series wins by the Chicago Cubs). Click the picture twice to super-size…picture from Wikipedia.

42 Responses to “Perihelion and Latest Sunrise”

  1. Rocky (Rockford) says:

    You know that we are in a boring NO SNOW PATTERN when Bill breaks out the trivia information!

  2. Heidi Kortman says:

    Never mind the ‘boring’ weather pattern, Three Cheers for each extra minute of daylight!!!

    1. Rocky (Rockford) says:

      It is hard to argue with that. I am all for more daylight!

    2. fixxxer says:

      Got that right.

      Bring on spring!

  3. Travis (Oxford, MI) says:

    Very possible this week will be the coldest week we get all winter… I’d put the chances at 50%… any takers for the over/under?

    1. Rocky (Rockford) says:

      Even though we are in a NO SNOW PATTERN I still expect a couple of weeks will end up colder than this week!

    2. Rumrunner says:

      Lol. 50%.

    3. Brad (Lawrence) says:

      I’m on your side Travis. I think we are in a pattern and will stay that way for a while. Despite all of this, I am an all or nothing kinda person. Either the little bit we have melts away, or we get blasted by a blizzard. This 1/2 inch here and there is for the birds.

    4. Michael g (se gr) says:

      I’d take that bet in a second.

    5. Jack says:

      Hmmmm, awww..What The H&EL…. SPIN : Bob Seger – Ramblin’ Gamblin Man (1969) – YouTube
      ► 2:25► 2:25

      1. Rocky (Rockford) says:

        GREAT SONG!

        1. Steelie says:

          Good Day,

          And few people know he is really from (gasp) Marlette! ;-)


        2. big Daddy BC says:

          Used to see him play in a church down the road, back in the early days.

        3. Bill Steffen says:

          Bob Seger for President! Here’s an actual quote from Bob Seger:

          “”[Ann Arbor] was really conservative when I was a kid, it was Eisenhower-ish when I was a kid. My father was a Republican and my mother was real strict as far as honesty and as far as paying the bills. That was hammered all the time: you must pay the bills at the end of each week, and don’t spend too much, and all that.”

          He could certainly teach you a thing or two. Honesty for one…you lied when you claimed that Romney was a polygamist! And he could teach Harry Reid a thing or two about paying the bills. Reid can’t even come up with a budget…he’s required to by law and it hasn’t been done since 2009.

  4. kevin. w says:

    I think looking at the temperatures building near the Yukon and across Siberia which will push close -70 degrees next week and we get a big push of arctic air then possibly the last week of January/first week of Feb. could be the coldest part of winter. Usually the warmest part of summer is toward the last part of July/early August (typically) and the coldest is as stated above. So will see.

    1. K_Rat52 says:

      Kevin, it has been warmer in Anchorage, Alaska the past few days than in Grand Rapids. That’s because of the Japanese Current pushing the warmer waters of the south Pacific in that direction. Fairbanks, on the other hand, has been quite cold…normal for Alaska in the winter. While I am not fond of cold weather, I do wish Mother Nature would make up her mind – either get good and cold and stay that way or warm up and stay warm and then by March, it can get hot.

  5. kevin. w says:

    I looked up the winter of 78/79 and we were way below normal snowfall until the big blizzard at the end of January and then it snowed all the way til April and I know it got dam cold after all that snow on the ground cause I got frost bite when I was kid that year.

  6. Michael g (se gr) says:

    GFS has been advertising a serious arctic outbreak 10-12 days out for several runs now. Fits well with Bastardi’s stratospheric warming over the pole as a precursor to US cold theory.

    1. Rocky (Rockford) says:

      Where and when have we heard that before?

      1. fixxxer says:

        Mike loves mr.joe.b

        1. Michael g (se gr) says:

          True enough.

  7. SW Kent says:

    Yes, I am predicting a cold and snowy period from mid Jan until early Feb……..nice W winds off the lake!

    1. Ned S. (Now in South Holland) says:

      SW Kent: On what is your prediction based?

      1. Brad (Lawrence) says:

        A hunch…it’s more predictable than the NWS lately, right? :P

        1. SW Kent says:

          I have studied meteorology for about 20 years……
          But other than that, looking at long range models and a little hunch!

  8. Tim from Zeeland says:

    Bill, good read on how near to the sun we are and what it means to us. Way back in school we learned that the earth is 93 million miles from the sun. I’m guessing that’s an average of the near and far. So that means we are 92.5 mill as of now and in the summer it puts us at 94.5 mill. On the flip side of the earth, or down under side that means the sun is closer during the summer and more distant during winter. Does that mean places are warmer in summer and colder in winter in the summer hemisphere?

    1. Steelie says:

      Good Day,

      Something to think about… The Northern Hemisphere has nearly twice the amount of land mass than the Southern Hemishpere (approximately 39% v. 19% of land as compared to ocean coverage of 60% [Northern] and 80% [Southern]. Water also retains heat better than land in general…


    2. Michael g (se gr) says:

      I believe Bill has posted before that if that was reversed we would be 2-3* warmer in summer and colder in winter.

  9. Tim from Zeeland says:

    southern hemisphere?

    1. Steelie says:

      Good Day,

      I can say this… New Zealand Summers are wonderful! IMHO…


  10. Tim from Zeeland says:

    Blog needs a way to edit after posting. If Bill can, why can’t we as posters? Just asking.

    1. Bill Steffen says:

      Company-wide rule – all 43 TV stations. That’s how it is on most blogs/forums.

    2. Cort S. says:

      It presents an identification challenge. How does the blog software know if it’s actually you who wants to edit your post (and not a mischievous family member or a malicious neighbor sharing your IP address)? There are a couple ways that it could, each with their downsides:

      Registered accounts with passwords

      Cookies (cross-referenced with e-mail and IP addresses)

  11. Mike M. says:

    December UAH figures are out, Bill. A whopping 0.2°C above average. ZZZzzzz….

  12. fixxxer says:

    Felt good for it to stay lighter out longer. All we need now is some sunshine.

    1. Swatz_Zoo(Cedar Springs) says:

      Iabsolutely agree! I must admit I am nervous about this spring/summer temps, hoping we are lucky with the temps like we were last year but more so for more thunderstorms maybe if the weather pattern wasn’t so boring people would get a long better and not be so bored and attack one another. We need a good weather event to bring us together and unite as storm lovers rather snow or thunderstorms, it gets fun when the weather gets active.

  13. SW Kent says:

    Bill, when I read this blog, I am in awe over God’s creation…’s so consistent! Year after year after year, etc…..

    1. Jack says:

      Amen and Amen !!! Listening 2 or CUE: Amy Grant – This Is My Father’s World – YouTube
      ► 3:09► 3:09

  14. Jack says:

    Hi Bill, Reading This Interesting Thread, You Guessed it Reminded of old Song ( go figure on that.Lol ) I’m sure your Bro. The Musician Remembers This…Check it Out…. Peace and God Bless…Enjoy..Spin: Heartsfield – Racin’ the Sun – YouTube
    ► 8:45► 8:45
    Sep 5, 2008 – Uploaded by carpunder
    1973. This song is copyrighted and Heartsfield is trademarked, by others than me .

  15. Jim from Glendale says:

    I’ve known that the sun is closest to the earth in Jan and always wondered:
    Does that cause the northern hemisphere (sp) to have milder winter as the sun is closer in winter and further away in the summer, thus milder summers?

    And the opposite true in the southern hemisphere, colder for their winter and hotter for their summers?

    1. Bill Steffen says:

      Yes, that’s true. If the situation was reversed, with the sun closer to the Earth during the Northern Hemisphere summer, then July would be 3 degrees warmer in G.R. and December/January would be 3 degrees colder. The difference is minimized in the Southern Hemisphere because that Hemisphere has more ocean and less land. Water is more difficult to move when it comes to temperature. The surface water temperature at the beach in Grand Haven may only change by 2 degrees over the course of a 24-hour July day.

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