Steamboat’s days are gradually getting longer, but they’re already longer in Durango
Steamboat Springs — If you thought you noticed that the sun was hanging above the horizon during the early evening hours of Jan. 20 for a little longer than it did on New Year’s Day, you aren’t deceiving yourself. The days are gradually getting longer, and the pace at which the hours of daylight are increasing is also picking up.
According to the U.S. Naval Observatory, Steamboat Springs enjoyed just nine hours and 21 minutes of daylight Jan. 1, but that number will have increased to 9 hours and 45 minutes as of Jan. 20, a difference of 24 minutes. By the end of the month on Jan. 31, the hours of daylight will have increased to 10 hours and 7 minutes.
If that’s not enough daylight for you, be thankful you don’t live in a more northerly location where the hours of daylight are noticeably shorter than in Steamboat. Consider, for example, Jackson, Wyoming, where folks could only count on 9 hours and 29 minutes of daylight Jan. 20. That’s 16 minutes fewer than the nine hours and 45 minutes in Steamboat.
“How can that be?” you ask.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the earth’s axis of rotation is inclined at 23.5 degrees. For people living in the northern hemisphere, the earth tilts away from the sun during the winter months — the further you are from the equator the shorter the sun’s apparent “trek across the sky” and consequently so are the hours of daylight. The opposite is true in early summer when those same high latitudes are aimed more directly at the sun.
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Just as locations to the north of Steamboat Springs (40 degrees, 29 minutes latitude), see fewer hours of daylight this time of year, a city such as Durango (37 degrees, 17 minutes) to the south of Steamboat is experiencing longer daylight today.
The Astronomical Applications Department of the Naval Observatory shows that Durango will see 10 hours and 1 minute of daylight Jan. 20.
If you want to keep track of the rate of change in the duration of daylight here in Steamboat, or any city in the country, enter the location at the Naval Observatory’s web page.
For most people in most locations in North America, the biggest perceived change in the hours of daylight they experience will arrive suddenly March 12, with the change to daylight savings time. That’s when people move their clocks forward one hour creating a perceived extra hour of daylight at the end of a 9-to-5 work day. By Nov. 5, it will be time to move the clocks back again and surrender to darkness.
In terms of planning your calendar to make the most of the longest days of the year, the sweet spot in 2017 will arrive June 16 to 24, when Steamboat will be within seconds of experiencing 15 hours and 4 minutes of daylight each 24-hour period.
Of course, if that’s not enough for you, consider spending the middle of June in Jackson, Wyoming, where they’ll see 15 hours and 24 minutes of daylight in the Tetons during that same time period.
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The Muddy Slide Fire is now 100% contained, ending the months-long fire that was sparked by an afternoon lightning strike June 20.