Shortest day of the year arrives

People watch the sunrise at the northern Winter Solstice celebration at Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Thursday Dec. 22, 2011. The omens are good that 2012 will be an excellent year, a druid said today, after the sun shone on Stonehenge during a dawn ceremony to mark the winter solstice. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland/PA)

WASHINGTON – For those of you who still need to get some Christmas shopping done, you need to be aware that it’s the shortest day of the year.

Dec. 22 marks the winter solstice and the official start of winter (12:30 a.m. is when it began on Eastern Standard Time).

For those of you who love to sleep, this also is the longest night of the year.

After today, the days will start to get progressively longer.

The winter solstice happens when the North Pole is angled away from the sun, so areas north of the equator get fewer hours of sun exposure.

The sun will be above D.C.’s horizon for 9 hours 27 minutes Thursday. The sun rises at 7:23 a.m. and sets at 4:50 p.m.

Another warm day is on tap. The high will be around 60 degrees. Overnight, expect rain that could be heavy at times, with a low of 47. An inch of rain is possible, says ABC 7 Meteorologist Brian van de Graaf.

The above average temperatures set records at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and at Dulles International Airport.

It reached 62 at BWI and 61 at Dulles. The BWI record had been 61 degrees, set in 1956. The Dulles records was 60, set in 1998.

The high at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport was 8 degrees off the record high of 68 set in 1923.

The average temperature for this time of year is 45 degrees.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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