How Short Is the Shortest Day of the Year?

short-shortest-day-year Credit: Ahmed Mahin Fayaz/CC-BY 2.0

The length of the shortest day of the year depends on the location. In the United States, some areas get less than 4 hours of sunshine on the shortest day. In places like Washington and New York, the shortest day lasts for up to 9 1/2 hours.

The shortest day of the year falls on the winter solstice. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is usually between December 20 and December 23. In the Southern Hemisphere, the shortest day is between June 20 and June 22. The December solstice occurs when the North Pole is at its furthest tilt away from the sun.

How much sunlight there is on the shortest day depends on the location and does not necessarily mean the latest sunrise or the earliest sunset. The earliest sunsets usually occur about 2 weeks before the winter solstice and the latest sunrise about 2 weeks afterward. In parts of the Arctic, there is no daylight at all. Variation in the length of sunlight also occurs across the U.S.:

  • Fairbanks, Alaska - 3:42 of sunshine on the shortest day
  • Seattle - 8:25 of daylight
  • Boston - 9:04 of daylight
  • Chicago - 9:08 of daylight
  • New York - 9:15 of daylight
  • Washington D.C. - 9:26 of daylight
  • Miami - 10:32 of daylight