When: On December 22 at 4:48 UTC, the December Solstice or Winter Solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year.
Why it’s important: It also heralds the official winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, and the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere. At this point, the sun reaches its farthest point from the equator.
What it means: In Latin, the word solstice is derived from sol, which means, “sun” and sistere, which means to “stand still.”
What causes it: Solstice is an astronomical event mainly caused by the Earth’s tilt on its axis. During December, the Earth is positioned in a way that the sun stays below the North Pole, the farthest south as it ever gets. Countries below the equator experience this phenomenon with daylight of more than 12 hours, while locations above the equator experience daylight of less than 12 hours.
In the Philippines, on December 22 at exactly 12:48 AM (Philippine Standard Time PST), the Sun will reach its Winter Solstice. This will be the start of Philippine nights being longer than daytime.
According to PAGASA, the Northeast Monsoon will intensify a week before the New Year. This means that the cold breeze and longer nights will equate to the perfect mood for Christmas!
How will it affect the Philippines? Watch PanahonTV’s interview with PAGASA Weather Forecaster Jori Loiz to know more. Winter Solstice
As we begin the countdown to ending another year, we take a look at the weather events that made 2014 memorable, weather-wise.
Situation: Tropical Cyclones
This year, a total of 19 tropical cyclones entered the PAR (Philippine Area of Responsibility).
The first was Agaton, which made its entry last January 17. Though it was identified as a Tropical Depression, the lowest category for cyclones, Agaton caused severe flooding in Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao and the CARAGA region.
According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), 244,344 families were affected in more than a thousand villages in 16 provinces. There were at least 1,147 houses destroyed and more than one thousand partially damaged. All in all, damages in infrastructure and agriculture were estimated at more than 500 million pesos.
From the 19 tropical cyclones that entered PAR, 10 were under the Typhoon category with wind speeds of 118 to 220 kilometers per hour.
From these 10 typhoons, Ompong and Ruby could be categorized as Super Typhoons.
Entering PAR on October 7 and making its exit on October 11, Ompong, with international name Vongfong, was classified by the U.S Joint Typhoon Warning Center as a Category 5 Super Typhoon.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 215 kilometers per hour and gustiness of 250 kilometers per hour, Ompong—thankfully— did not hit the country as it re-curved towards Mainland Japan.
But Typhoon Ruby was totally different story. With the fitting “Hagupit” as its international name, Ruby entered the country’s boundary on December 3 and made its way out on December 11. With maximum sustained winds of 215 kilometers per hour and gustiness of 250 kilometers per hour, Ompong made five landfalls.
First landfall: Dolores, Eastern Samar
Second landfall: Cataingan, Masbate
Third landfall: Torrijos, Masbate
Fourth landfall: Laiya, Batangas
Fifth landfall: Lubang, Island
The NDRRMC filed a total of more than four million residents affected in Regions III, IV-A, IV-B, V, VI, VII, VIII, CARAGA and the National Capital Region. 18 deaths were recorded while injured persons reached up to 916. Ruby damaged mostly infrastructure and agriculture—the total cost amounting to more than 5 billion peos.
Due to its devastating impact, a state of calamity was declared in San Pablo City in Laguna, Batangas, Albay, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate, Naga City, Juaban and Gubat in Sorsogon, Sorsogon City, Aklan; Maayon, Dumalag and Panay in Capiz; and Northern and Eastern Samar.
Because fatal storm surges brought by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 made the public more aware of this weather phenomenon, Ruby kept Filipinos on their toes.
Coincidentally, while Ruby was inside PAR, an astronomical event happened. This was the Full Moon phase, which caused higher tidal variations due to our satellite’s strong gravitational pull.
Weather forecaster Chris Perez explained that higher waves were expected due to the combination of storm surge and the effects of the Full Moon.
Watch the Interview: Storm Tide
PAGASA officially announced the start of the Hot and Dry season last March 26. Easterlies, the prevailing wind system during this time, brought hot and humid weather to the country.
Aside from the easterlies, this season’s indicators included the presence of the High Pressure Area (HPA), which brings good weather conditions, the termination of the northeast monsoon, and the increase in temperatures.
Upon the onset of the Hot and Dry season, the country undeniably experienced a number of scorching days that were especially evident in the Luzon area.
In March, Tuguegarao recorded a maximum temperature of 37.9 degrees Celsius. But its days got hotter in April and May, which brought in temperatures of 39 degrees and 39.8 degrees consecutively.
Meanwhile, the Science Garden in Quezon City documented a high of 36.7 degrees Celsius in May.
The Unpredictable El Niño
Within this year, the El Niño phenomenon became a hot topic during the hot season as PAGASA continued to monitor the ups and down of sea surface temperature.
From April 21 to 28, PAGASA recorded a substantial increase in the sea surface temperature anomaly from 0.2 to 0.4 degree Celsius. It was then forecast that El Niño might reach its peak in the last quarter of 2014.
But with the recent report from the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, only weak El Nino conditions were observed in November and December.
Here comes the rain!
The rainy season in the country officially started in June 10. Before declaring the onset of this season, PAGASA first made sure that the following requirements were met:
• Daily thunderstorm activity
• Prevailing southwest monsoon
• 5-day period with a total rainfall of 25 millimeters or more in three consecutive days.
Come on, Amihan!
The Amihan season was officially declared by PAGASA on October 16. The northeast monsoon or amihan is the prevailing wind system, bringing light rains to its affected areas. It also has cold and dry characteristics, resulting to colder mornings.
At this time of the year, a gradual decrease in temperatures was observed in different parts of the country.
Winter season in the northern hemisphere officially started on December 22 this year. This also signaled the start of experiencing longer nights and shorter days in the Philippines.
During the winter solstice, the northern hemisphere leans the farthest distance from the Sun, causing longer nights and lower temperatures for those in the northern hemisphere. The opposite happens in the southern hemisphere where people experience the longest day.
Related article: Winter has arrived
Although a lot has happened this year, there’s more to come this 2015. So brace yourself for those inevitable storms, but remember to keep to the sunny side of the street. With all the changes the weather brings, one thing stays the same: the Filipino brand of resilience that knows no bounds.
The official onset of the winter season in the northern hemisphere began today, December 22, 2014 at 7:03 AM (PST)
Engr. Dario Dela Cruz, PAGASA Space Sciences and Astronomy Section Chief, says the Philippines will start to experience longer nights as the sun reaches the winter solstice today.
The word solstice is derived from the Latin words sol, which means “sun,” and sistere meaning to “stand still.” Therefore, solstice literally translates into “the sun stands still.”
The winter solstice is an astronomical phenomenon, which occurs every year, signaling the shortest day and the longest night in the northern hemisphere in December, and June in the southern hemisphere.
Simply put, while winter begins in the northern hemisphere today, summer starts in the southern hemisphere.
During the winter solstice, the northern hemisphere leans the farthest away from the sun, bringing longer nights and lower temperatures for people living in the northern hemisphere. The opposite happens in the southern hemisphere where people experience the longest day.
The changing seasons are caused, not by the distance of the Earth from the Sun, but by the tilt of the earth. Aside from the solstices which occur during June and December, we also experience equinoxes in the months of March and September, which results to an approximately equal duration of night and day time.
THE ANCIENT TRADITIONS
Some solstice traditions are celebrated in cognizance of this important astronomical occurrence. Since ancient times, the “rebirth of the Sun” is commemorated in a variety of ways.
The ancient Egyptians, for one, celebrates the return of Ra, the god of the Sun, after recovering from his supposed illness. The Romans, on the other hand, holds the ancient festival of Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of Agriculture. The latter is closely related with the modern Christmas celebration during which gift giving is a key aspect.
In Scandinavia, Norse families light Yule logs and feast until the logs burn out, which could take as long as 12 days. Meanwhile, for the Chinese, an important festival called Dong Zhi or the arrival of winter is a perfect time for families to get together to celebrate the past year.
We, Filipinos are known, not only for our hospitality, but also for having the longest Christmas celebration in the world. As early as the first day of September, which marks the beginning of the “Ber Months,” Christmas carols can be heard in establishments, reminding everyone that the yuletide season is just a few months away.
One of the exciting events during “ber months” is the Autumnal Equinox. According to PAGASA, it will happen on September 23, Tuesday, at 10:29 am in Philippine Standard Time.
During the equinox, there will be equal lengths of day and night, meaning there will be 12 hours of daytime and 12 hours of night time. Instead of a tilt away from or towards the sun, the earth’s axis of rotation is perpendicular to the sun rays. After this, Philippine nights will be longer as the Sun moves below the celestial equator towards the southern hemisphere. Longer nights also mean shorter exposure to sunlight. That’s why a slight temperature drop can be expected.
Meanwhile, December 21 will have the shortest day and the longest night of the year, marking the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere. Although the Philippines does not have winter, we experience cooler temperatures at this time because we are located in the northern half of the Earth.
The onset of the Northeast Monsoon or “Amihan,” which brings cold and dry air, is also a major factor of cold weather. According to PAGASA Weather Forecaster Fernando Cada, this usually occurs during late October. The onset of Amihan could mean a slight chill during early mornings, mostly in parts of Luzon.
The peak of Amihan is in January, and most likely to last until February. January is one of the coldest months of the year. Northern, elevated provinces like Benguet usually experience the lowest temperatures, allowing the formation of frost in their vegetable farms.
Last year, PAGASA declared the onset of Amihan on October 17, 2013. The weather bureau observed the development of high pressure areas over mainland China, which shifted the wind direction, bringing cold and dry air over the Extreme Northern Luzon.
Currently, PAGASA continues to monitor the probability of a “weak El Niño” in the last quarter of 2014. This phenomenon, which is characterized by unusually warm ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, might affect the weather patterns in the country. While temperatures may be higher than normal, breezes may not be as cold as expected. Rainfall below the normal level may also be experienced in the coming months.