SOLSTICE: Longer days are on the way, but weather turning colder

Dwight Harriman

Take hope, Park County residents. After today, the days start getting longer. Well, at least in the evenings. And soon also in the mornings. It’s complicated.

Let’s start with when the winter solstice officially occurred in Livingston. Occurred, past tense, because that moment came at precisely 9:28 this morning, according to the National Weather Service in Billings, making today the shortest, darkest day of the year.

Emphasizing that darkness, today the sun will set at a gloomy 4:41 p.m. in this neck of the woods. 

But then, ever so slowly, the Northern Hemisphere will start tilting back toward the sun. On Friday, we’ll get an extra minute of daylight when the sun sets at 4:42 p.m., according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Nickolai Reimer. It will set again at 4:42 p.m. on Saturday, but then on Christmas Eve at 4:43 p.m. and on Christmas Day at 4:44 p.m.

However, due to astronomical complexities, the extra daylight will for a time occur only in the evenings, Reimer said.

For the next several days, the sun in Livingston will rise at 8:01 a.m., and, oddly, by Christmas Day rise later — at 8:02 a.m. — and then at 8:03 a.m. come Dec. 29. Finally, on Jan. 6, sunrise starts inching back, occurring at 8:02 a.m. that day, adding to the daylight already gaining in the evenings.

Why the temporarily darker mornings?

“It’s just the orientation of the earth on its axis and the way the orbit is in relation to the sun. It can shift,” Reimer said, calling it “complicated geometry.”

Regardless, residents can console themselves with the thought that as of 9:28 this morning, we are headed for warmer weather and longer days. Speaking of which, the longest day next year, on June 21, will feature the sun rising at 5:33 a.m. and setting at 9:15 p.m. Nice.



The days may be getting longer, but the weather is turning colder and snowier, securing a white Christmas for local residents.

Reimer said a new weather system will work its way into the area overnight, bringing 4 to 5 inches of snow mostly during the day Friday. That will clear out by Friday evening, but the winds will pick up, bringing the risk of blowing snow into Saturday.

Then, temperatures drop. The Weather Service website shows a high of 22 and low of 6 for Friday, a chilly high of 15 and low of 6 for Saturday, with a slight warm-up Sunday featuring a high of 22 and low of 16. 

The forecast for Christmas Day calls for a 30 percent chance of snow with a high of 30.


Dwight Harriman may be reached at


Solstice brings frigid temperatures, heavy snows in Montana

BILLINGS (AP) — Heavy snowfall shut down some schools in Montana and cold temperatures were expected to linger after Thursday’s arrival of winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year.

More snow and bitter cold winds were expected across much of the state through Friday, with temperatures in the single digits and colder lingering into next week.

A winter weather advisory was in effect for communities including Great Falls, Helena, Missoula and Bozeman.

Some flights were delayed and others cancelled at the airport in Bozeman and schools in areas of southeastern Montana were closed Thursday.

In northwestern Montana, Flathead Electric Co-op says it is delaying planned maintenance work in the Libby area that would have involved an outage for almost 1,400 customers. The utility says it will be rescheduled for a more appropriate time.