When the sun came out from beyond the clouds Tuesday afternoon over eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, it was the first look at the sun in more than a week. This is typical for November and December. Not only is the day length limited by the sun's paltry position low in the southern sky, the weather tends to be persistently cloudy in November and December.

The low sun angle is one reason for the clouds. Sunlight (and heat) is limited by the low angle which diminishes the heating of the lower atmosphere during daylight. Low clouds persist once they've formed. Dry, Arctic air can bring sunny weather (if a bit on the frigid side), but these massive high pressure centers from the Yukon or Siberia are more common after Christmas. Westerly winds, such as what blew in yesterday, can bring in air that has lost its humidity crossing the Rockies, bringing us brief reprieves from the persistent gray.

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