The midnight sun phenomena, also known as the polar day, where the sun is fully visible day and night. It occurs in some parts north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle. During this time, the sun remains visible at local midnight. Midnight sun can last for days to several months, where days and nights are alike.
What Causes The Midnight Sun Phenomena?
The midnight sun phenomena comes about when the sun reaches its highest point during the summer solstice (June 21st in the Northern Hemisphere and December 22nd in the Southern Hemisphere) in either the Northern or Southern hemisphere. During an equinox, the sun is at the highest point. An equinox is experienced when the sun rises once and sets once per year. Equinox is experienced at the poles. An equinox occurs when the earth’s equator passes through the sun’s disc. When an equinox occurs, the day and night are almost equal. The sun is a disc and because of that, the midnight sun might be seen at latitudes below the polar circle. A process where light and other electromagnetic waves from a straight-line pass through the atmosphere with air density variation which as a function of height is called atmospheric refraction. Atmospheric refraction causes midnight sun to be experienced by some parts of a country that is closer to the poles. A good example is Iceland though not all of it experiences the midnight sun. Atmospheric refraction also causes the midnight sun to last a bit longer than six months.
Polar nights are the opposite of polar days, and occur mostly during the winter, and only within the polar circles. Areas affected by the polar nights are smaller than that which experience the midnight sun. There are four types of polar nights: polar twilight, civil polar night, nautical polar night, and astronomical polar night. Polar twilight happens when the sun goes below the horizon all day in areas located in the borders of the polar circle. Normal outdoor activities may be carried out because there’s light scattering due to atmospheric refraction. Civil polar night produces a faint glow of light which is seen at midday. During civil twilight, the sun is between zero and six degrees below the horizon. The nautical polar night is experienced when no trace of light is seen apart from around midday. The sun is twelve degrees lower below the horizon during a nautical twilight. The astronomical polar night is experienced when the night is continuous, and there is no trace of light. During the time, the sun must go below twelve to eighteen degrees below the horizon when the polar twilight happens.
White nights occur when areas around the Antarctic experience midday twilight instead of the midnight sun. By this time, the sun is less than six or seven degrees below the horizon. The nights are never dark. On white nights, daytime activities are possible since the light is sufficient without artificial lighting. During white nights, art festivals are held throughout the night in many cities in the summer. The White night is a name given to places of high latitudes where the sun sets at 10:00 pm and the rest of the night is never dark. Areas like St. Petersburg, Russia hold white night festivals. These white night festivals are marked by a spectacular show of fireworks which marks the end of school year.
Although there is no settlement south of the Antarctic, there are several countries which cross the Arctic Circle, and which experience midnight sun: Norway, Alaska, Sweden, Greenland, Iceland, Finland, and Canada. At the northernmost parts of Finland the sun remains up for sixty days. At the far most North Pole, the sun does not set for six months (March to September).
Norway is the best places to watch the midnight sun phenomenon. The North Cape of Norway is the northernmost point in Europe and the midnight goes for 76 days. Other places where one can watch the midnight sun is Longyearbyen between April 20th and August 20th. In Hammerfest, May 16th and July 27th are the best time to experience the midnight sun phenomenon. In Svalbard, Norway, there is no sunset from April 19th and August 23rd, and this is the most inhabited region in Europe.
The Eagle Summit, which has elevation 3652 feet above sea level, is a tall gap through the white mountains of central Alaska and was named after Eagle River which is a point of convergence between Yukon flats and Tanana valley. Eagle Summit, due to its latitude, experiences the midnight sun despite being south of the Arctic Circle. The midnight sun is seen from June 1st to July 1st at the Arctic center. As one travels farther North, the midnight sun extends its duration. At the location, the midnight sun can last from May 14th to July 29th. Vehicles that are solar powered can run for 24 hours due to the midnight sun.
Problems Associated With Midnight Sun Phenomena
Because of having sunlight at night, the body finds it hard to adjust to the situation. Visitors who come to experience the midnight sun phenomena find it hard to get enough sleep because there is no darkness to dictate to the body that it is time to sleep. Hypomania is a condition associated with persistent excitement and unusual exhilaration which is a problem that affects locals and visitors alike. Despite these challenges, midnight sun where the sun practically “refuses” to set remains one of the best natural phenomena on earth.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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