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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Weathercatch: It’s the fall equinox, and that means days are now rapidly getting shorter

The first telltale signs of autumn are appearing in the Inland Northwest.  (Linda Weiford/For The Spokesman-Review)
The first telltale signs of autumn are appearing in the Inland Northwest. (Linda Weiford/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Nic Loyd and Linda Weiford For The Spokesman-Review

Thursday is the autumnal equinox, a reminder that there’s no turning back to summer. The period of cooling weather, changing leaves and pumpkin spice lattes is upon us.

Although we typically enjoy a gradual transition from warm to cool temperatures, the decreasing amount of daylight is abrupt. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, daylight dwindles at the fastest pace of the year in the weeks after the equinox. Next week in the Inland Northwest, each day will shrink by nearly 3½ minutes. By Halloween, the day will be shorter than today by 2 hours and 10 minutes.

If our current loss of 3½ minutes daily seems like a lot, compare it to the northernmost city in the United states. Utqiagvik, Alaska, is now losing nearly 10 minutes of daylight each day. By contrast, Miami is losing only 1½ minutes daily. If this is something you desire, keep in mind that the city also gets Category 5 hurricanes.

Although today marks the autumnal equinox with rapidly declining daylight hours, for people in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the beginning of spring and increased daylight. Also, regardless of where you are on the globe today, you’ll experience nearly 12 hours of daylight and nearly 12 hours of darkness . The only other day this occurs is the spring equinox in March.

The term “equinox” is derived from the Latin term “equinoxium,” meaning “equal between day and night.”

As the days get shorter and the sun hangs lower in the sky, temperatures will eventually drop significantly, a change that typically occurs sometime in October in our region. For now, the weather is usually pleasant, with highs running around 70 degrees in the Spokane area. On Sept. 22, 2020, however, the high temperature reached 80 degrees.

Here we are two years later and the fall equinox weather is normal for today’s date. Highs are expected to be in the upper 60s, along with a chance of rain this morning. Clearly, hard core autumn will have to wait. According to the National Weather Service, we could approach 80 degrees early next week.

Nic Loyd is a meteorologist in Washington state. Linda Weiford is a writer in Moscow, Idaho, who’s also a weather geek. Contact: ldweiford@gmail.com.

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