Winter is the coldest season of the year in polar and temperate climates, between autumn and spring. Winter is caused by the axis of the Earth in that hemisphere being oriented away from the Sun. Different cultures define different dates as the start of winter, and some use a definition based on weather. When it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere, it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and vice versa. In many regions, winter is associated with snow and freezing temperatures. The moment of winter solstice is when the sun’s elevation with respect to the North or South Pole is at its most negative value (that is, the sun is at its farthest below the horizon as measured from the pole), meaning this day will have the shortest day and the longest night.
The earliest sunset and latest sunrise dates outside the polar regions differ from the date of the winter solstice, however, and these depend on latitude, due to the variation in the solar day throughout the year caused by the Earth’s elliptical orbit
The tilt of the Earth’s axis relative to its orbital plane plays a big role in the weather. The Earth is tilted at an angle of 23.44° to the plane of its orbit, and this causes different latitudes on the Earth to directly face the Sun as the Earth moves through its orbit. It is this variation that primarily brings about the seasons. When it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the Southern Hemisphere faces the Sun more directly and thus experiences warmer temperatures than the Northern Hemisphere. Conversely, winter in the Southern Hemisphere occurs when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted more toward the Sun. From the perspective of an observer on the Earth, the winter Sun has a lower maximum altitude in the sky than the summer Sun.
During winter in either hemisphere, the lower altitude of the Sun causes the sunlight to hit that hemisphere at an oblique angle. In regions experiencing winter, the same amount of solar radiation is spread out over a larger area. This effect is compounded by the larger distance that the light must travel through the atmosphere, allowing the atmosphere to dissipate more heat. Compared with these effects, the changes in the distance of the earth from the sun are negligible.
The manifestation of the meteorological winter (freezing temperatures) in the northerly snow–prone parallels is highly variable depending on elevation, position versus marine winds and the amount of precipitation. A case of point is in Canada which is a country normally associated with its tough winters. Winnipeg on the Great Plains at a relative distance from large bodies of water has a January high of −11.3 °C (11.7 °F) and a low of −21.4 °C (−6.5 °F). In comparison, Vancouver on the coast with a marine influence from moderating Pacific winds has a January low of 1.4 °C (34.5 °F) with days well above freezing at 6.9 °C (44.4 °F). Both areas are on the 49th parallel north and in the same western half of the continent.
We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.
Similar effects although less extreme differentials are being found in Europe, where the British Isles do not have a single non-mountain station below freezing in mean temperatures in spite of their northerly position.
Meteorological winter is the method of measuring the winter season used by meteorologists based on “sensible weather patterns” for record keeping purposes, so the start of meteorological winter varies with latitude.Winter is often defined by meteorologists to be the three calendar months with the lowest average temperatures. This corresponds to the months of December, January and February in the Northern Hemisphere, and June, July and August in the Southern Hemisphere. The coldest average temperatures of the season are typically experienced in January or February in the Northern Hemisphere and in June, July or August in the Southern Hemisphere.
Nighttime predominates in the winter season, and in some regions winter has the highest rate of precipitation as well as prolonged dampness because of permanent snow cover or high precipitation rates coupled with low temperatures, precluding evaporation. Blizzards often develop and cause many transportation delays. Diamond dust, also known as ice needles or ice crystals, forms at temperatures approaching −40 °F (−40 °C) due to air with slightly higher moisture from aloft mixing with colder, surface based air.
They are made of simple ice crystals that are hexagonal in shape. The Swedish meteorological institute (SMHI) define winter as when the daily mean temperatures go below 0 °C (32 °F) for five consecutive days. According to the SMHI, winter in Scandinavia is more pronounced when Atlantic low–pressure systems take more southerly and northerly routes, leaving the path open for high–pressure systems to come in and cold temperatures to occur. As a result, the coldest January on record in 1987 was also the sunniest in Stockholm.