It is June 21, the first official day of summer!
To quote from a previous editorial in this newspaper that highlighted this welcomed season of the sun, “Those who enjoy the natural fresh air of the great outdoors, and others whose lifestyles are tied closely to the level of mercury in a thermometer, have wasted little time evacuating their homes over the past few weeks.”
And with good reason.
It is summer, the sequel to a season of moderate spring temperatures that have offered renewed comfort while signaling that Ole Man Winter has long since packed his bags en route for another locale, one that we hope is far removed from the serenity of a green and plush Southeast Tennessee; at least, for the next few months. By then, most will long for autumn. But let’s not rush time.
For any interested in the science of summer, the year’s hottest season kicks off with what climatologists, meteorologists and probably a few other “-ologists” describe as the summer solstice. We could take a stab at explaining it, but for the sake of accuracy it is better to bow to the professionals.
For that reason, we quote from timeanddate.com, a website that specializes in the weather, atmospheric conditions, time zones, the sun and occasionally the moon.
Here’s what the site’s writers have to say:
“The June solstice occurs when the sun is at its farthest point from the equator. It reaches its northernmost point and the Earth’s North Pole tilts directly toward the sun, at about 23.5 degrees. It is also known as the northern solstice because it occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere. If the Earth's rotation was at right angles to the plane of its orbit around the sun, there would be no solstice days and no seasons.
“The June solstice day has the longest hours of daylight for those living north of the equator. Those living or travelling to the north of the Arctic Circle are able to see the ‘midnight sun’ where the sun remains visible throughout the night, while those living or travelling south of the Antarctic Circle will not see sun during this time of the year. For those living near the equator, the sun does not shift up and down in the sky as much compared with other geographical locations away from the equator during this time of the year. This means that the length of day temperature does not vary as much.
“The June solstice marks the first day of the summer season in the northern hemisphere. The word solstice is from the Latin word ‘solstitium,’ meaning ‘sun-stopping,’ because the point at which the sun appears to rise and set stops and reverses direction after this day. On this day, the sun does not rise precisely in the east, but rises to the north of east and sets to the north of west, allowing it to be in the sky for a longer period of time. In the southern hemisphere, the June solstice is known as the shortest day of the year. It is when the sun has reached its furthest point from the equator and marks the first day of winter.”
Perhaps you understand why we deferred. But at the very least, now you know the science behind summer ... sort of.
But here’s our take: Hallelujah! Needless to say, summer offers a little something different for each indulger.
For students, summer means schools have closed their doors and that spells no more textbooks, homework and teachers; in fairness to teachers, it means much the same but from a different perspective.
For workers, summer means extended days which offer more hours of light and the chance to drive to work each morning in daylight and to return home each evening ... in daylight.
For parents, summer means long-awaited family vacations and the chance to travel, if not to the mountains nor to some exotic location, then to the backyard for cookouts, swimming pools and total relaxation.
For outdoorsmen, summer means recreation, exercise, gardening, hiking and camping, whitewater, afternoon shade and morning breezes.
Summer also brings heat, humidity and sunburn. So whatever area residents choose for the season, practice safety first. Drink lots of water. Wear sunscreen. And don’t overdo.
It’s a great season, but it comes with hidden peril.