Weather Blog

How far north does the sun set this week?

How far north does the sun set this week?

I had a viewer ask me just how far north of west on the compass does the sun set as we slowly head toward the summer solstice.

On June 20, the sun will set in Seattle at 305 degrees -- or 35 degrees north of due west. On the equinox, it's due west at 270 degrees, and on the winter solstice, it's 235 degrees, or 35 degrees south of west.

So over the course of a half year, the sun will arc some 70 degrees across the sky.

As of April 16, the sun is setting at 287 degrees, or 17 degrees north of west.

As for how high the sun gets above the horizon at solar noon, for summer solstice time, the sun reaches 66 degrees at its peak. For the equinoxes, it's 42.5 degrees, and for winter solstice, it's a low 19 degrees.  Today, it's at 53 degrees.

You can figure that out by taking your latitude (for Seattle, it's about 47.5 degrees) and subtracting it from 90. That number is the sun's altitude at solar noon on the equinox. Add 23.5 degrees for summer and subtract it for winter.

Don’t forget that solar noon is different than when our clock says noon. For one, when we're on Daylight Savings Time, solar noon is closer to 1 p.m. since we artificially turn our clocks ahead an hour. Also, solar noon drifts a few minutes relative to our clocks depending on your longitude within a time zone.

For example, on April 16, Solar Noon was 1:09 p.m. in Seattle. But in Spokane, it was 12:49 p.m. That's because being farther east, the sun gets to Spokane a little faster than Seattle, but for ease of time keeping, we keep both cities in the same time zone.

If you'd like to compute this kind of data for other days and cities, head to the U.S. Naval Observatory site