Monday, February 23, 2009

Let there be light

Those of us who have lived in the Northwest know the importance of sunlight in our energy, mood, and productivity.  Even if you hasn't self-diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, appropriately), there's no doubt that summer hours are a welcome transition.  Google trends shows in the greater United States, searches for "depression" are about 50% more common in the winter than in the summer.

According to this map of solar insulation, the Northwest is perhaps the darkest part of the mainland US during the winter:

While I don't know much about the biology of sunlight, I do know that the Northwest has a reputation for chemical imbalances.  It manifest in our music, politics, propondance of serial killers, our glut of cafes and bars.  Individuals tend gravitate towards opposite ends of the extreme:  A long, deep, brooding in the winter, followed by bouts of impulsiveness in the summer.  Loathing self-desctruction combined with fitful creativity.

What's more is that during the late summer, it actually becomes brighter than just about anywhere in the east:

So why am I bringing this up?  Over the year, sunset and sunrise times vary according to a sine wave, and we're just about to enter the period of the most dramatic change.  In one month, we can expect another 96 minutes of daylight.  Sunset happens about 1.6 minutes later each day.  With daylight saving time (March 8), most of us will probably enjoy another hour of waking sun each day. 

So, Northwest residents, armed with this knowledge, I urge you to use your early-spring manic cycle wisely.