Daylight in Northern Ireland

I haven’t posted as many cultural experiences here as I had planned to. I’ll try to change that, for those who are interested. For my first post on that subject, I thought I’d express what has been the most difficult part of living in Northern Ireland so far. Life is pretty great here, I’ll admit, but there are drawbacks at times. The worst is one that caught me a bit by surprise though.

I knew Ireland would be cloudy and rainy a lot. That has been no surprise.

I knew there wouldn’t be many daylight hours in the winter. No surprise here.

What I didn’t expect was the actual sun angle.To be honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever given sun angle much thought. I knew it wasn’t directly overhead at noon in the wintertime, but who cared really? Well, anyway I did expect it to be dark a lot here in the winter. Our latitude here is, after all, 54 degrees north. One expects less daylight. Plus, I’ve experiences summer daylight hours and, well when the sun rises at 4 am and sets at 11 pm, or thereabouts, you realize it can’t be like that in the winter. However, not only do daylight hours decrease, but so does the sun angle. Yes, this makes sense, but I still wasn’t prepared for it.

The sun, rather low at high noon

High Noon, not so high

See, in December, on the shortest day of the year, the sun is only 12 degrees off the horizon at high noon. That is barely above the trees! Thus the sun (when it isn’t cloudy) just barely arcs above the horizon. There are late afternoon-like shadows all day. Combine that with the already meager 7 hours and 15 minutes of daylight, and even the daytime can feel pretty dark. I’ve decided this alone explains the Irish pub culture–they must fight the depression somehow!

Now, lest you feel too sorry for me, things are on the mend. I was worried that, after sunny Arizona, Ireland would feel pretty dark and dim to me. But even by the 16 of January, when I returned, the sun had shot up to 14.5 degrees at noon (every degree counts at this point), and there were 7 hours and 53 minutes of daylight. It may not sound like much, but I could sure tell a difference. It wasn’t the 9+ hours in Arizona (which honestly felt like summer to me), but good enough.

Today the sun is now over 20 degrees at high noon (I’m going to be confused where to find it now), and there are 9 hours and 10 minutes of daylight. The sun sets after 5 pm, and I cannot tell you how exciting that is to me. We are adding over 4 minutes of daylight each day that passes, so it is becoming quite noticeable now (we’ll have over 10 hours of daylight by the end of the month, and a high noon of nearly 30 degrees).

Anyway, that’s been my main challenge of life in Ireland. Really rough, I know. But it has been really interesting to get a taste of the short daylight of the northern latitudes. I don’t think I’d fair well too much further north.

You can check out a great little almanac here.


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