It started with the summer solstice.
Summer Solstice is an instant in time when the sun reaches it highest point in the sky because the earth’s axis of rotation leans most towards the sun. This happened today at June 21 at 1:04 am Eastern Time for the United States and marked the official start of summer. Today we will have the most day light as the sun is overhead the longest!
The tilt of the earth will stay towards the sun from now until September. The axis started to tilt towards the sun in March but was the most inclined towards the sun earlier today. The tilt allows the northern hemisphere to receive more direct rays from the sun and therefore temperatures increase.
Even through the earth’s axis will still tilt towards the sun- the days will get slightly shorter but we will still have more daylight than night until the axis begins to tilt away from the sun after the equinox in September.
The summer solstice occurs every year in the northern hemisphere in the date range of June 20- 22. However, if we lived on the opposite side of the earth, it would be time to get out the boots and mitten because this same solstice marks the official start of winter in the southern hemisphere! Winter solstice won’t occur here until December 21 in 2013. It will mark the point where the earth’s axis of rotation is tilted farthest from the sun. After this solstice the amount of daylight starts to increase once again.
Now this is where it gets very interesting….
Right now the earth is moving away from the sun and will be at the greatest distance from the sun on July 3. With summer upon us- that just doesn’t seem to make sense! It seems like we should be getting colder and not start to warm up until after July 3 when the earth starts moving closer to the sun.
To understand this here is what you need to know- it is the tilt of the axis that dictates the temperatures and not the distance from the sun. Without the axis tilting towards or away from the sun- there would be no seasons. No seasons?!? Can you think where that would be?
The opposite is true on January 4. At that time the earth will be closest to the sun on its orbital path but its axis of rotation is titled away from the sun, which means less direct rays of sun hitting the northern hemisphere and hence colder temperatures- winter as we know it. Want summer then? Head to the southern hemisphere where they will be getting more direct rays of sun and waxing up their surfboards!
Until then here’s to fireflies, ice cream and beach days!