Winter solstice 2017: New season kicks off Thursday with frigid weather pattern

Skyline of Boise with snow in the foothills

The 2017 winter solstice will occur at 9:28 a.m. MST (11:28 a.m. EST) Thursday, signaling the official start to winter.

The winter solstice happens when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, meaning the northern hemisphere is tilted farthest from the sun at that point in time. This image, courtesy of NASA, gives a good look at what's happening on earth during the winter solstice.

Because of this, the first day of winter typically sets up the 'longest night of the year,' or the day with the least amount of sunlight.

Our sunrise will happen at 8:15 a.m. tomorrow, and the sun will set at 5:11 p.m., meaning the sun will be up for just eight hours and 56 minutes. Think that's not a lot of time in the sun? Compare us to Fairbanks, Alaska, and you'll be sitting pretty. There, the sun is up for just three hours and 41 minutes. Near the Arctic Circle, there's barely any daylight on the day of the solstice.

Also, just because winter is often considered the longest night of the year, it doesn't always mean that we'll see the latest sunrise and the earliest sunset.

What about our winter?

Winter is "coming in hot"...except, it won't be hot. Quite the opposite, actually. The first few days of winter will bring with it an Arctic air mass sinking south into the lower 48 from Canada. As that happens, we will see high temperatures plummeting into the low to mid 20's over Christmas weekend, with lows falling into the single digits (in some areas) or teens across SW Idaho. In the mountains, temperatures should dip below zero in many locations beginning Saturday night, with daytime highs in the teens.

While we may not get our White Christmas after all, I can pretty much guarantee a Cold Christmas! Conditions look to stay dry through early next week in the lower valleys, with our next storm set to roll in sometime Tuesday or Wednesday of next week (timing TBD). The mountains may see snowflakes start falling as early as Christmas Day, but much of the precipitation will hold off until after that.

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