It is that time of the year – many person’s favorite season change. Wednesday will be the official start to summer, as the summer solstice will occur during the early morning hours (eastern time). The summer solstice is welcomed with some of the longest days of the season, as well. Soon enough, we will begin losing daylight again. This article will give a brief overview of the meaning behind the solstice, and how it impacts the rest of the Earth.
The first day of summer is in the middle of complete daylight for those that live in Alaska. There, they have what is referred to as the “Midnight Sun” because the sun never truly sets. They pay for this in the middle of winter, where they live in complete darkness. These two aforementioned phenomena are mostly true for those in Northern Alaska, near the Arctic Circle. While we get to enjoy the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, the first day of winter will be kicking off for the southern Hemisphere. Why is there an exact time for the start of any season? This is because this is when the sun’s rays strike the earth at the 23.5-degree North latitude mark – known as the Tropic of Cancer – at a maximum 90-degree angle. This means that the sun’s rays have reached it’s maximum spot northward for the year. Let’s begin by breaking this down:
The diagram to the left shows you the position of earth relevant to each of the season changes. Note the Summer Solstice position on the right. Here are a few things to know about the summer solstice, in relation to daylight; energy; and heat:
The day of the Summer Solstice is usually the longest day of the year for daylight, or it occurs within a few days of the solstice. We begin progressively losing daylight, then, until December. Some implications of the Summer Solstice include there being daylight 24 hours per day north of the 66-degree latitude (as previously mentioned) – this is referred to as the “Midnight Sun.” In general, these locations go about two and a half full months of 24 hours of daylight. Likewise, this is complete darkness during the winter months – including the Winter Solstice. Reverse all these characteristics for the Southern Hemisphere.
What does this mean for energy? As one could probably make of this, when the sun’s angles come in at 90-degrees at the summer solstice in the tropics: they are most intense and most concentrated. This is a fraction of the reason why temperatures are warmer during summer months than winter months. Sun angle has much to do with heating and spreading out of Earth’s heat budget.
In sum, the Summer Solstice means good things for most people in the Northern Hemisphere. You have your longest days, the highest sun angles, and warmth. The opposite is true of the Southern Hemisphere in June. Also keep in mind that the further north you get, the longer your days will be. Daylight will begin receding within a week after the Summer Solstice for the Northern Hemisphere. This recession continues until December 21 – when the shortest day of the year for daylight will occur.