Photo: Espen Bierud
Fjord Tours Facts / 16 Oct 2019

Why Does the Sun Not Rise In the Winter?

There are basically two different kinds of people in the world when it comes to sunlight. Some are classified as “morning people,” which means that they absolutely love to wake up early in the morning to the warm glow of sunlight. On the flip side of the coin, their counterparts are known as “night owls,” which means that they actually prefer the evening when the sun is on its way down.

The good news is that both of these types of individuals can find what they are looking for by booking a Norway tour. Because of its positioning so close to the Arctic Circle, Norway has the rare opportunity to experience the seasonal events known as Midnight Sun and Polar Night.

While the Midnight Sun is the time of year where many parts of northern Norway experience constant sunlight for long periods of time, the Polar Night is the exact opposite where it fails to rise for several weeks at a time. But why exactly does the Polar Night occur? Although it seems like something that is very mystical, it actually has a very reasonable explanation.

When Does the Polar Night Occur?

As anyone who has ever taken a fjord tour through Norway during their summer vacation can tell you, the Midnight Sun is something that occurs strictly during the summer months. Therefore, since the Polar Night is the exact opposite of the Midnight Sun, it only makes sense that it occurs at the exact opposite time of year.

Depending on where someone goes in Norway, they can usually expect to experience the Polar Night from the months of November to January. In places such as Tromsø, sunlight does not occur for this entire period of time. However, in towns that are further south like Ålesund, the Polar Night only lasts for a small fraction of that time.

Photo: Vider Nordli Mathiesen

So, if someone decides to take a scenic railway journey through Norway during the middle of the winter, then they should expect to experience very little sunlight as they will be in the midst of the Polar Night. This makes it the perfect time to go out and participate in Northern Lights tours since the lack of sunlight makes the lights more noticeable and exquisite than any other part of the year.

What Causes the Sun to Not Rise In the Winter?

Both the occurrence of the Midnight Sun and the Polar Night are a direct result of the position of the Earth and its relationship with the Sun. As most people already know, the Earth is not positioned perfectly perpendicular. If it was, then every location on the entire planet would receive exactly 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of darkness every single day. However, as we already know, this is not the case.  

The reason for this is that the Earth has a slight tilt to it. In fact, it is estimated that the Earth's tilt is approximately 23.5 degrees on its axis. This fairly significant tilt of the earth means that one end of it is always pointing towards the sun while the opposite end is pointing away from it.

However, since the Earth is also constantly rotating on its axis and making a complete revolution every 24 hours, it means that the majority of the planet is still receiving a fairly equal amount of sunlight for the majority of the year. But as you get further away from the equator, this ratio of sunlight to darkness begins to become more and more unequal.