Happy summer solstice! The first day of summer.
June 21, 2023:- Get ready to soak up the summer sun! Today, June 21, marks the official start of summer with the summer solstice—the longest day of the year in 2023. Here’s what you need to know in simple terms.
When does summer officially begin? For the Northern Hemisphere, summer officially kicks off on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, coinciding with the summer solstice. However, for the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the first day of winter.
What is the summer solstice? Think of solstices as extreme points of sunlight. There are two solstices each year. We experience the shortest day with the least sunlight during the winter solstice. Conversely, the summer solstice gives us the longest day, with maximum sunlight throughout the year.
On the other hand, Equinoxes occur in March and September when day and night are of equal length because the sun is directly above Earth’s equator.
Why is the summer solstice the longest day? Imagine Earth as slightly tilted, about 23.5 degrees on its axis. Due to this tilt, different parts of our planet receive varying amounts of sunlight as it orbits the sun at other times of the year. During the summer solstice, the Northern Hemisphere tilts as much as possible toward the sun, allowing sunlight to reach farther north than at any other time. This results in the maximum amount of sun we’ll receive annually.
How long will the day be? The length of the day depends on your location. In the United States, you can expect around 14-16 hours of daylight, with longer durations, the farther you are from the equator.
In Florida this year, Miami will enjoy approximately 13 hours and 45 minutes of daylight, according to the NOAA Solar Calculator. Meanwhile, Tallahassee will have about 14 hours and 7 minutes. New York City residents can expect just over 15 hours of sunshine. If you’re craving even more daylight, head to Anchorage, Alaska, where they’ll bask in 19 hours and 22 minutes of daylight.
Why does the date of the summer solstice change? Our everyday Gregorian calendar needs to precisely align with the astronomical calendar. We lose a small fraction of time each day, adding a Leap Day every four years to catch up. While we’re adjusting, the sun and Earth keep moving along, so solstices and equinoxes typically fall within a range of days. Generally, the summer solstice occurs around June 20 or 21.
Is the summer solstice the hottest day of the year? Surprisingly, no. Although the Northern Hemisphere receives the most direct sunlight during the June solstice, the hottest day of summer typically arrives in mid-to-late July along the east coast of the U.S.
This phenomenon occurs because oceans take longer to heat up and cool down than land. As a result, for a few more weeks after the summer solstice, the amount of heat absorbed from the sun during the day remains more significant than the cooling effect at night, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explains.
So, while we savor the extra daylight, remember that the peak heat of summer is yet to come!