Winter may officially start on the Dec. 21 solstice, but as far as meteorologists are concerned, winter weather begins weeks earlier.
Armel Castellan, a meteorologist for Environment Canada based in Sidney, said “winter, for meteorologists, started on Dec. 1. For everybody following the Gregorian astronomical calendar, it starts on the solstice. Astronomically speaking, it makes a lot of sense, but if you think about it meteorologically, we’ve been in ‘winter weather.’”
Winter weather for Greater Victoria typically lasts December through February, with spring starting with March, he said.
Dec. 21 will bring the shortest day of the year. In Victoria, the sunrise will be at 8:02 a.m. and sunset at 4:20 p.m.
By Jan. 25, the amount of daylight will increase to more than nine hours, and a full hour will have been gained by Jan. 28.
“I think people will notice physiologically. You know that winter is a good way through and we’re on our way to more sunlight, which is nice,” he said.
As November is typically Victoria’s rainiest month, the solstice on Dec. 21 is also around halfway through the wettest time of the year.
The weather forecast is indirectly related to the orientation of the earth as it rotates on its axis (the same conditions that cause the equinox and solstice as the earth tilts toward and away from the sun). Castellan said the longer days also bring the sun higher in the sky, increasing its daily impact on the weather.
It’s also why the jet stream is so strong in December, January and February, he added, pointing to the parade of storms that have hit Greater Victoria since Dec. 9.
“I think it’s common knowledge that solstice and Christmas happen at the same time from a pagan to religious shift,” Castellan said. “Realizing there’s a very clear link between a festival of light during the darkest part of the year is very interesting.”