Posted by: pyeager | June 21, 2009

Happy Summer Solstice

The summer solstice marks the beginning of astronomical summer, and that’s today in the northern hemisphere…so…Happy Summer Solstice.

The summer solstice is the point of the year when the sun is aimed farthest to the north in the northern hemisphere, which means the “longest day” and “shortest night” in terms of the amount of time the sun is above the horizon.

Logically, then, the solstice is the time when the sun is directing the greatest amount of energy  at the northern hemisphere, which might make us wonder why this isn’t the warmest time of year.

One of the major reasons for the delay in warming is related to the fact that water warms more slowly than the ground. This is obvious in areas close to the coast. Many a sea breeze has saved beach goers from intense heat, and many a mild breeze from the water has prevented winter snowstorms in coastal locations.

This slower warming and cooling of the water, however, affects all of us since water is so prevalent (approximately 70% of the earth is covered in water), and the result is that most of us have our highest average temperatures in late July, not late June. Even that’s not universal, though; areas strongly affected by the cool Pacific, such as coastal Northern California, have their warmest average temperatures in the fall, when the ocean has had more time to moderate.

–Paul Yeager

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