See winter solstice around the West

After the longest night of the year, earth tilts once again toward the sun.


Light — or the lack of it — has a profound effect on ecosystems. As seasons change and sunlight disappears, leaves fall from trees, animals enter hibernation, and snow blankets northern landscapes. The changes hit humans, too: Many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder, which may be caused by a lack of sunlight and serotonin. 

Dec. 21 marks the shortest day of the year, and the official beginning of winter. Residents of Fairbanks, Alaska, will enjoy just 3 hours and 41 minutes of light on this day, but in another month that span will lengthen to 5 hours and 44 minutes. In this community especially, it’s easy to see why Westerners celebrate the winter solstice. These photos from across the region highlight the wonder the return of daylight brings.

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