Facts And Fiction About The Summer Solstice
The summer solstice is when Earth’s rotational axis on either the Northern or Southern Hemisphere is inclined the closest towards the Sun. On this date in June, the Earth’s axial tilt towards the Sun is at its maximum – 23.44 degrees. What this means is that on the date of the summer solstice, the Sun, when viewed from the North or the South Pole, will reach its highest altitude of the year. This creates the longest day of the year which is measured by the length of daylight that occurs over a 24-hour period. The exception to this is at either of the Polar Regions where daylight lasts for a full 24-hours over the course of a few days to as long as six months.
The Summer Solstice and the First Day of Summer
Oddly enough, the first day of Summer is not the same day as the summer solstice if you are a meteorologist. Climate data is easier to analyze and compare when a regular calendar year is split into four equal seasons. Summer typically runs from June 1 to August 31 in this arrangement which means the first day of summer in the average weather office is June 1. However, astronomically speaking, the first day of summer is when the Sun is at its highest altitude in the sky. That only happens on the summer solstice, which is later in the month of June.
The Longest Day of The Year and The Hottest Day of the Year
It kind of makes sense to think that the day with the longest amount of daylight is going to be the hottest day of the year. However, there are many variables that debunk that immediately. The atmosphere of our planet absorbs the Sun’s energy during the day and releases it as heat at different rates depending on land mass and location. For example, water heats slower than air or land. Temperatures are far from their peak in late June which also impacts this scenario. The hottest day ever recorded was in Furnace Creek, California on July 10, 1913…56.7C or 134.1F.
The Different Dates For The Summer Solstice
In the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer Solstice is on a date that falls between June 20 and 22. There is a good reason for this and it relates to the calendar system we use. The Gregorian calendar system contains 365 days but the time it takes for the Earth to orbit the Sun once is a little bit longer than that. To be precise, a single orbit is 365.242199 days and to make up for this fractional difference, a day is added to the calendar once every four years. We call those years Leap Years and that pushed the date of the summer solstice back a single day.
Seasons That Do Or Do Not Appear on Other Planets
As Mercury has virtually no tilt, measured at less than one-third of a zero degree, in relation to the plane of the planet’s orbit, seasons do not occur in the sense that we understand them to be. On the other end of the scale, Uranus has a tilt that measures just about 98 degrees which impacts the length of seasons considerably. The average season on that planet will be roughly 21 years long. However, that is far from the longest seasons experienced in our Solar System. Neptune holds the record for length of a season with over 40 years for a single one to pass.
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