That’s a pretty condemning title, isn’t it? This is one of those times most of you will appreciate having a long day. The official arrival of astronomical summer is Tuesday morning.
This marks the longest day length of the year, essentially the greatest amount of daylight vs. dark. Our days are all 24 hours (well, sort of…more on that later), but the amount of light vs. dark varies throughout the course of the year.
At exactly 5:14 am EDT direct rays of sunlight will mark their northernmost progress at about 23.5 degrees latitude before retreating back southward. The fact Earth has seasons largely has to do with the fact Earth is tilted 23.5 degrees on its axis. Throughout the course of our yearly journey around the sun, that tilt allows the northern and southern hemisphere to see more/less direct solar radiation. It is this that takes the brunt of the reason for the seasons.
Somewhat curiously, Rochester’s latest sunset doesn’t arrive on the solstice, but rather in the week following it. The reason has to do with what amounts to a rounding error.
We measure a standard day as 24 hours, but in reality that time is typically slightly more/less depending on the time of year. This can add some quirks to timing. While the solstice is indeed Rochester’s longest amount of overall daylight, our latest sunsets lag by a few days before starting to shorten. We peak around 8:54 p.m. before losing ground.
That leads us to a question I’m often asked. If the first day of summer is the longest day of the year, why isn’t it also the hottest day of the year? The answer is similar to the same reason the peak of hurricane season isn’t the start of summer, but rather late summer toward early fall.
It takes time for Earth to build up heat. While yes, the amount of solar radiation does peak on day 1 of summer, we’re still net positive in the weeks and months to follow, allowing a progressive accumulation of warmth. Think along the lines of gaining more energy than we’re losing, even if the pace is slowing. Water in particular takes time and more energy to warm (which is why Lake Ontario is still relatively cool and why it stays relatively warm as temperatures drop into Fall).
This “lag” effect ultimately produces some of WNY’s warmest temperatures in the heart of summer vs. day 1. We often site Lake Ontario’s influence on our local weather, and this temperature lag plays a major role for better or worse.
So bottom line after Tuesday: Temperatures are going up while daylight is going down. Many consider the next few months to be the best WNY has to offer. A few weirdos like me might enjoy the following tidbit…
We only have 184 days until the official start of winter. Enjoy the solstice, everyone.