Living In A Northern Latitude Has It’s Advantages (and Disadvantages)

In my life, I have lived in a number of different places within the United States and even once overseas. These various locations were due to being in the Navy for 20 years and being reassigned every two to three years.

Our current location in the state of Washington is by far the northern most latitude where I have lived. The changes in sunrises and sunsets and the amount of daylight and darkness varies considerably here, like I have never experienced before.

I grew up in western Pennsylvania, about 15 miles east of Pittsburgh. I was there until going into the Navy back in 1984. Here are a list of the places I was stationed for at least a year. I captured the latitude of these places, based on a Google search. Here are the location and latitudes:

  • Pittsburgh, PA, 40.38°
  • Yuma, AZ, 32.69°
  • Gulfport, MS, 30.37°
  • Monterey, CA, 36.60°
  • Virginia Beach, VA, 36.85°
  • Naples, Italy, 40.85°
  • Port Hueneme, CA, 34.15°
  • Fallon, NV, 39.47°
  • Aldie, VA, 38.98°
  • Current location in WA, 47.89°

We are way up there now. Other major world cities that are at this latitude are: Seattle, Paris, Vienna, and Munich. It’s crazy when you see that Bismarck and Fargo North Dakota are only at 47° north latitude, south of where I am now! However, due to our proximity to the water (Hood Canal) the weather is more moderate than North Dakota, and that is good.

In this very northerly latitude, the amount of daylight at the winter solstice is just shy of 8 1/2 hours, while at the summer solstice it is a whopping 16 hours. Here is a table showing the differences depending on latitude:

Winter-Summer Solstice Daylight

City/TownWinter SolsticeSummer SolsticeDifference
Pittsburgh9:16:5815:03:505:46:52
Yuma9:59:5914:18:194:18:20
Gulfport10:11:1114:06:293:55:18
Monterey9:39:3014:39:535:00:23
Virginia Beach9:38:0514:41:225:03:17
Naples9:14:2615:06:325:52:06
Port Hueneme9:52:3514:26:034:33:28
Fallon9:22:3414:57:515:35:17
Aldie9:25:5314:54:195:28:26
Current Location8:22:5616:02:007:39:04

When I started writing this story I really thought there was more of a difference in the amount of daylight between my current location and Fallon, NV and where I grew up in Pennsylvania, the places where I lived the longest. However, after looking at the above table, there isn’t as much of a difference as I thought.

In my current location, there is more daylight at the summer solstice and less at the winter solstice than other place I have lived; and the rate of change day-to-day is greatest here. By rate of change I mean how much more or less daylight there is per day in a given month.

So let’s compare the average rate of change at Pittsburgh and my current location. (I calculated rate of change as the average amount of daylight gained/loss per day from the beginning of the month to the end of the month.

Daylight Rate of Change (min/day)

CityJFMAMJJASOND
Pittsburgh1:302:232:362:261:450:17-1:20-2:16-2:33-2:28-1:51-0:18
Current Location2:013:083:223:122:210:23-1:50-3:00-3:18-3:13-2:28-0:24

Now, let’s take a look at the total change in daylight throughout the year at each of these locations:

Total Change in Daylight (per month)

CityJFMAMJJASOND
Pittsburgh46:151:06:331:20:281:13:0754:128:30-41:31-1:10:15-1:16:18-1:16:31-55:19-9:32
Current Location1:02:281:27:311:44:351:35:501:12:4511:23-56:37-1:32:51-1:39:13-1:39:56-1:13:45-12:39

As most of us learned in school, the earth is actually closer to the sun during the northern hemisphere’s winter and farther away in summer. Do you remember that? The northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun during the winter months and this causes more light to reflect away. In the summer the earth is tilted towards the sun and more sunlight reached the earth. So it’s the tilt of the earth, not the closeness to the sun that has the larger effect on our temperature.

The earth’s closest approach to the sun in 2021 is on Jan 2, 2021 at a distance of 91.399 million miles. The farthest the earth gets from the sun is on Jul 4, 2021 at a distance of 94.511 million miles.

Are you wondering where I got all of the data for this post? I used the Time and Date website. It’s a great site for printing calendars by the month or year but there is so much more there, including all of this astronomical data. Check it out.

It’s pretty clear that an advantage of living in this northern region is the longer daylight during the summer. Unfortunately, that means we have to deal with the winter months and their shortened daylight. That is, unless we travel south for the winter! We are not ready to do this yet, but maybe in the future.

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