Jun
13
2005

The summer solstice is approaching. June 21st is the longest day of the year, and the first day of summer for us in the United States. The summer solstice for the U.S. occurs at the time when the Earth is at a point in its orbit where the Northern Hemisphere is most tilted towards the sun.

Many cultural traditions are tied to the summer solstice, as well as the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and the vernal and autumnal equinoxes - the days in the spring and fall where the amount of day and night time are nearly the same. Some scientists believe that Stonehenge , in England, is part of a huge astronomical calendar because Stonehenge's axis is roughly pointed in the direction of sunrise at the summer and winter solstice.

In England and Ireland the solstices and equinoxes do not mark the start of a season, as they do in the United States; rather they occur at the midpoint of their seasons. Summer for these countries starts on May 1 and ends on July 31and the summer solstice is called mid-summer.

Gene posted an entry on March 4th about his feelings on when the seasons should start based on the average temperature .

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Gene's picture
Gene says:

Hey, Joe! If all the heat and humidity the last couple of weeks don't count as summer, then what does? ;-)

Seriously, the argument that summer begins on or around June 1 is not based on feeling, but on fact. My original post linked to an interview with climate researcher Kevin Trenberth. Decades of weather records support his contention that summer -- the warmest part of the year -- begins on June 4.

In the end, it's all a matter of definition:

* If you define summer, as most people do, to mean "the three warmest months of the year," then it's June, July and August.

* If you define summer, as climatologists do, to mean "the warmest quarter of the year," then it's June 4 through September 3.

* If you define summer in cultural terms to mean "the season of outdoor fun," then it's Memorial Day through Labor Day.

* And if you define summer, as annoying TV weathermen do, to mean "the period from the moment the Sun is over the Tropic of Cancer to the moment is is over the Equator," then people are going to scratch their heads and look at you funny. Because while that definition may be very precise, it's also pretty meaningless.

Besides, calculating seasons by temperature rather than by light means you get to start enjoying summer a full three weeks before the weatherman does!

posted on Wed, 06/15/2005 - 8:48am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

While I can see where Gene is coming from the summer solstice has always been used as a calendar for different reasons.

1. To officially say when summer begins
2. From the old days to even now the solstices are used to let farmers know that it's time to plant, harvest, ect.
3. It is also a religious day. Countless religions around the world have some type of holy day to mark the solstice.

To Gene:

In Florida winter is very mild and we don't usually see cold weather still around January. Does that mean that because we, Floridians, aren't having cold weather that it's not winter yet? Even though the winter solstice marks winter as beginning Dec. 21st-22nd? And at the same type another state is having blizzards?

posted on Fri, 08/31/2007 - 9:09am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

The summer solstice has not always been used as a calendar -- American dictionaries, encyclopedias and calendars cited June 1 as the beginning of summer until very recently.

Farmers plant long before the solstice, usually closer to the spring equinox.

As to your question, no matter where you live in the northern temperate zone, the coldest months of the year will be December-January-February (technically Dec. 4 to March 4). Throughout that period, you are going to be considerably warmer than Minnesota, that's for sure. Nevertheless, both regions experience their respective versions of winter at the same time.

posted on Fri, 08/31/2007 - 9:20am

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