Winter in Minnesota is a dark affair. But why?

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Winter in Minnesota is a dark affair. But why?

As we count down the last few days before the end of Daylight Saving Time, we all know well what is coming next: The fourth quarter of the year, the temporal swan song of 2017, the defining season for a state that enjoys all four, best known as winter.

It all begins with the Fall Equinox on September 22, when we stop seeing the sun until later in the morning, and have to say goodbye to it earlier in the day as well. The sun basically becomes that friend you used to see all the time, but is now too busy with other things; show up late, leave early. Like we don’t even matter.

The sun rose at 7:41am this gray October 24 morning in the Twin Cities. This is considerably later than say, the morning of July 24, when it was up already two hours earlier at 5:50am.

(Speaking of, don’t forget to turn your clock back an hour at 2:00am on November 5.)

But, as we can’t adjust our schedules to accommodate the sun’s mood swings, many of us were already awake much earlier than 7:41, making coffee surrounded by darkness and comforted only by artificial lights, and the glow of cell phone screens scrolling through social media still in bed because, let’s face it, it’s really hard to get out of bed when it’s still dark out.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone: If you find it harder to get up in the morning on these dark days, it’s completely natural.

It’s just the way we are.

Melatonin, the naturally occurring hormone in animals and people that’s produced by your pineal gland in the brain, is what regulates your sleep, and your wakefulness.

As melatonin is produced based on how much light we’re getting around us, a lack thereof keep keeps us tired and sluggish and wanting to stay in bed scrolling through Snapchat stores for just a moment, just one moment, longer. In a cruel piece of irony, it also makes it harder to fall asleep the next night.

Why would the sun do this to us?

If you were wondering, earth’s rotation on its axis, which is currently tilted at a cool 23.5° around the sun, is the reason why so many of us start our days in darkness.

We, the good people of Minnesota, are a part of the Northern Hemisphere. We’re currently heading toward the Winter Solstice, which means that the sun is giving all its love to the Southern Hemisphere (the Tropic of Capricorn, if you want to know exactly, so very far from our cold streets and changing weather). It’s pretty simple: As the earth has that nice 23.5° tilt away from the sun, we get less sunlight.

Like so:

Winter in Minnesota is a dark affair. But why? | Twin Cities Agenda
courtesy of Illustrative Mathematics, illustrativemathematics.org

The Northern Hemisphere stays darker for more of the day, leaving us with nothing but shadows and the fond memories of warmer days.

The reason you wake up feeling so rested on that vacation to Playa del Carmen has as much to do with the time of sunrise as it does with the fact you’re far away from the responsibilities of daily life.

Thankfully, this only lasts until December 21, the Winter Solstice, when the days start to get longer again and we all get to enjoy the company of our good friend/sometimes asshole the sun for longer periods at a time.

And soon, before you can say snow days, ice skates, steamy soup, and Super Bowl LII three times fast, it will be spring, and then summer, once again.

Read this next: How you can actually enjoy the rest of winter with the ‘Hygge’ life