The earliest sunset happens before the winter solstice in 2022.
Short Winter Days
While there are still the same amount of hours in a day (24 hours) in the winter time we say we have shorter days because we have less daylight during winter months. The sun sets earlier, and with the addition of falling back an hour, it's dark before 5 PM at times.
For many, the number of hours we spend in darkness can be depressing, and I have to say I feel the same way. But good news, longer seeming days are just around the corner, as the Sun will soon be staying up a little later.
Every year Winter Solstice is known as the shortest day of the year, it's the day when the sun reaches the Tropic of Capricorn and we have our shortest day. Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st and is the official start of winter.
However, the earliest sunset of the year will actually happen this week on December 7th. So after December 7th, the days will start to actually feel a little bit longer, since the sunset will gradually be getting later each day, until of course, the summer solstice.
How can the earliest sunset be on December 7th with Winter Solstice being on the 21st?
In short, it has to do with the way the Earth orbits the Sun and the Sun's path through the sky. The Sun's path is kind of like a figure 8.
Here, I'll let the Farmer's Almanac explain as they do it much better than I can:
The Sun’s odd looping path also explains why the earliest sunset and the latest sunrise fail to exactly coincide with the solstices. Instead, the earliest sunset occurs about two weeks before the winter solstice, while the latest sunrise occurs about two weeks after the solstice. On December 21, the solstice, the Sun’s position on the analemma is at the very top of the figure-8, whereas on December 7, it’s slightly to the right of the topmost position, causing it to arrive at the eastern horizon a little sooner than on December 21. On January 2, on the other hand, it’s slightly to the left of the lowest position, causing it to arrive at the western horizon a bit later than on December 21.
So start to enjoy slightly longer (seeming) days after this Wednesday!