TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The earliest sunset of the year occurs in early December and this year, it falls on Dec. 1. From here, the sunset time will get later each day through June. It is a slow process at first though, and the sunsets will still be before 6 p.m. until Jan. 20.
The sunset in Tampa is at 5:34 p.m. but it is a little earlier the farther inland (east) you are. In Winter Haven, the sunset is at 5:30 p.m. but in Clearwater, it occurs at 5:35 p.m. That is due to the curvature of the earth. The sun sets in the west, so the farther east you go, the earlier that sunset will be, even if it is just by a few minutes.
Contrary to popular belief, the earliest sunset of the year does not occur on the winter solstice or the shortest day of the year. This has to do with the difference in the way time is calculated from our 24 hour clocks and by the sun using solar noon. It does even out throughout the year, but around the solstice, one day is actually a little shorter than 24 hours which affects the sunrise and sunset times.
It is easily understood by looking at the sunrise times. Although the sunset will now get later, the sunrises are still getting later, but at a faster rate than the sunsets will.
Between Dec. 1 and the 21st, which is the shortest day, the Tampa Bay area will lose another 8 minutes of daylight. That is because the sunset will only be 5 minutes later during that time while the sunrise will be13 minutes later.