“The days just keep getting shorter” is an accurate but irritating cliché people tend to overuse near end of every year. In Wyoming, the days are getting shorter, but not in the direction most people would expect.
The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, which falls Dec. 21. However, many people in Wyoming have already experienced their earliest sunsets of the entire year.
Sunset in Casper was at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, making it the earliest sunset of the year. It’s even earlier than the upcoming 4:34 p.m. sunset on Dec. 21, the winter solstice.
Is this a fluke, or are winter days in Wyoming growing shorter and staying that way longer?
Light At Both Ends Of The Tunnel
Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day said people tend to focus on one side of a two-sided process when it comes to when the sun rises and set.
“Days getting shorter” is usually measured by how early the sun sets, not by how late the sun rises, he said.
“The different ends are not always the same,” he said. “I think most people's perception is that that afternoon is getting darker earlier. The sunset is changing, but so is the sunrise. It’s not just one.”
For instance, sunrise in Casper on Sunday was at 7:25 a.m. On the winter solstice, sunrise will happen at 7:32 a.m. and rise as late as 7:36 a.m. on Dec. 31 (sunset will be at 4:40 p.m., so the days are getting longer at that point).
Meanwhile in Cheyenne, the sun has been setting at 4:30 p.m. since Dec. 3. That won’t change until Thursday, when it will set at 4:31 p.m. During the same period, sunrise got seven minutes later.
Sunset in Gillette has been even earlier at 4:21 p.m. since Dec. 3. It won’t reach a luxurious 4:30 p.m. sunset until the last day of the year.
Big State, Long Lines
The reason why some Wyoming communities are getting cheated out of longer winter evenings has everything to do with size. Day said this is one of the many realms where the size of the state means a lot.
“It's a function of latitude,” he said. “When you have a big state like Wyoming, the difference in latitude between the northern part and the southern part of the state is enough to make a difference. Not everybody's going to have the same sunrise and sunset.”
Despite the feelings, the December solstice will happen at 8:27 p.m. on Dec. 21. But feelings are valid, as most Wyoming communities by then will have already experienced their earliest sunsets of the year on Dec. 8 or 9.
Day recommends the website timeanddate.com for anyone interested in the subtle differences that impact sunrise and sunset across Wyoming. The site acknowledges that the latest sunrise comes after the winter solstice, while the earliest sunset comes before it.
Andrew Rossi can be reached at: ARossi@CowboyStateDaily.com
Andrew Rossi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.