WTF Fun Fact 13681 – Only One Sunrise a Year

The North Pole experiences only one sunrise a year. This singular event marks a transition from one seemingly endless night to a day that lasts for months.

Why the North Pole Has Only One Sunrise a Year

At the North Pole, the sun is a shy dancer, making a grand entrance once a year. This happens because the Earth’s axis is tilted. As the Earth orbits the sun, this tilt allows for varying degrees of sunlight to reach different parts of the planet at different times of the year.

For the North Pole, there’s a period when the sun doesn’t rise at all, known as polar night. This occurs because the North Pole is angled away from the sun. Then, as the Earth continues its journey around the sun, a day arrives when the sun peeks over the horizon, marking the only sunrise of the year.

A Day That Lasts for Months

Following this singular sunrise, the North Pole enters a period of continuous daylight. The sun, once it rises, doesn’t set for about six months. This period, known as the midnight sun, is a time when the North Pole is tilted towards the sun, basking in its light day and night. Imagine a day that stretches on, where darkness doesn’t fall, and the concept of night loses its meaning. This is the reality at the North Pole, a place where time seems to stand still under the constant gaze of the sun.

The Science Behind the Phenomenon

The reason behind this extraordinary occurrence is the Earth’s axial tilt. This tilt is responsible for the seasons and the varying lengths of days and nights across the planet. At the poles, this effect is amplified. The North Pole’s orientation towards or away from the sun dictates the presence or absence of sunlight. During the winter solstice, the North Pole is tilted furthest from the sun, plunging it into darkness. As the Earth orbits to a position where the North Pole tilts towards the sun, we witness the year’s only sunrise, ushering in months of daylight.

Living under the midnight sun is an experience unique to the polar regions. For the indigenous communities and wildlife of the Arctic, this constant daylight influences daily rhythms and behaviors. Animals adapt their hunting and feeding patterns to the availability of light and prey. Human residents have also adapted to these unique conditions, finding ways to mark the passage of time without the usual cues of sunrise and sunset.

A Long Night and Only One Sunrise a Year

The contrast between the endless night and the day that lasts for months is a stark reminder of the Earth’s diverse environments. It challenges our perceptions and highlights the adaptability of life in extreme conditions. The North Pole, with its single sunrise, stands as a testament to the planet’s wonders. It’s a place where the rules of day and night are rewritten by the tilt of the Earth and its path around the sun.

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Source: “Time Has No Meaning at the North Pole” — Scientific American

WTF Fun Fact 13119 – Greenland’s Ecosystem Surprise

Evidence from the oldest DNA ever analyzed indicates that northern Greenland used to be a lush wonderland where mastodons, reindeer, geese, and hares once lived among a wide array of trees and other greenery. Greenland’s ecosystem surprise was reported in the journal Science in December 2022.

Why is ancient Greenland’s ecosystem such a surprise?

Today, Greenland’s ecosystem is far less varied thanks to its extreme Arctic climate. While you will find moss, lichen, small trees, and bushes in the tundra, it’s still largely considered an Arctic desert.

According to Eske Willerslev, a paleogeneticist at the University of Cambridge and a co-author of the study,

“No one would have predicted an ecosystem like this. Some species you find further south in Greenland, but a number you don’t find in the Arctic at all. It’s an ecosystem with no analog in the present day.”

Ancient DNA

According to Science (cited below), the insights into Greenland’s ancient past “come from the oldest DNA ever recovered: 2-million-year-old snippets of genetic material from more than 100 kinds of animals and plants, extracted from buried sediments.”

So not only is the information about Greenland’s ecosystem special, but the ability to use short and partially decayed DNA from millions of years ago is an exciting development.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, “Beyond evidence of reindeer, geese and one mastodon, [the researchers] also found signs of marine species, including horseshoe crabs and green algae. In this era of the island’s geologic history, temperatures were around 18 to 31 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than they are in Greenland today.”

Needless to say, scientists are excited about the finds.

I wouldn’t have, in a million years, expected to find mastodons in northern Greenland,” said Love Dalen, a paleogeneticist at Stockholm University in Sweden.

“It feels almost magical to be able to infer such a complete picture of an ancient ecosystem from tiny fragments of preserved DNA,” said Beth Shapiro, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Lost world in northern Greenland conjured from DNA in ancient soil” — Science