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The Summer Solstice Explained

The science behind the longest day of the year
Posted at 1:27 PM, Jun 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-20 14:27:54-04

Despite Omaha baking in summer-like temperatures over the past week, believe it or not we have not even made it to summer yet. Although meteorological summer began Memorial Weekend, astronomical summer (the traditional date) begins Tuesday, June 21. What exactly determines the beginning of summer? What kind of weather do we normally expect for the first day of summer?


The Summer Solstice
The science behind the summer solstice

The reason why it is the beginning of astronomical summer is because the way seasons are on Earth is due to astronomy. Contrary to popular belief, the seasons are not determined by how close the Earth is to the Sun, but determined by the tilt of the Earth on its axis!

As we rotate around the Sun, there are periods where the southern hemisphere is angled to the Sun (September-March) then there are period where the northern hemisphere is angled to the Sun (March-September). This is the reason why seasons are reversed, while the Holidays in the northern hemisphere are known for its wintry scenes. In the southern hemisphere, its the beginning of summer.

The beginning of seasons corresponds to where exactly the Earth is angled towards the Sun. During the Spring & Fall Equinox, the Sun is directly centered over the Equator. Meanwhile, the Summer Solstice the Sun is angled along the Tropic of Cancer while the Winter Solstice it is angled along the Tropic of Capricorn.

During the Summer Solstice, the Sun lies almost directly overhead the far southern United States. Leading to our longest day of the year! Depending on how far north you are, the longest day can run from 13.5 hours to some places in northern Alaska experiencing 24 hours of straight sunlight.

In Omaha, sunrise tomorrow is at 5:50am while sunset is at 9:00pm. Meaning we will experience 15 hours and 10 minutes of sunlight!


Summer Solstice Climatology
Although the Summer Solstice varies between June 20-22, it most commonly falls on June 21.

Typically high temperatures are in the mid-upper 80s with lows in the mid-60s. Our record high stands at 104 set in 1988, while our record low stands at 45 set in 1992.

As for 2022, we are expected to be above both our average high and our average low. High temperatures on Tuesday will be in the low-90s, with a high of 93. Curiously, our low temperature is expected to be at 79. Which if we only make it to that would tie our record warmest overnight low set back in 2013.

Regardless, summer will be kicking in feeling a lot like summer. This warm weather will continue through the rest of the week.