Week of June 23, 2024 – June 29, 2024

by Kaylen Iorio, Environmental Educator

From the times we’re brushing off the snow from the winter and dusting off the pollen of the spring, to when the weather becomes warmer as we enter summertime, our days are becoming longer.

The summer months bring an entirely new set of activities as the weather grows hotter and lakes, oceans, beaches, and green spaces become more enticing to experience. One of my favorite parts about the summertime is the longer daylight hours. To me it seems like I have more time to spend outside, with friends and family, or simply in the comfort of my own space with sunlight bursting through my curtains illuminating the room in a soft, warm glow. I allow the natural light of the early sunrises to envelope my bedroom and wake me up slowly, while the delayed sunsets lay a blanket across the sky of fiercely vibrant colors of orange and pink and red many hours later. These long days feel like a gift from mother nature!

It is a fascinating phenomenon the way our winter and summer months differ in daylight hours. Have you ever stopped to think about how darkness comes so swiftly in the winter months and seems to fade away like dissipating smoke with the beginning of summer? What’s the reason for the season?

There are a few contributors to this experience we all share. Earth rotates on its axis as well as revolves around the sun. Earth’s rotation on its axis produces our 24 hour days. However, Earth’s rotation does not dictate our season, it is actually the angle at which Earth sits on its axis – about 23.5 degrees. The 23.5 degree angle coupled with the annual revolution around the sun is responsible for our changing seasons.

In the summertime, the Northern Hemisphere tilts toward the sun causing a more direct target for the sun’s rays than at other times of the year, creating those days of seemingly never-ending daylight. The Northern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that is north of the equator (an invisible line drawn around the center of the Earth at 0 degrees latitude – this divides the earth into north and south). The revolution around the sun, however, is not a perfect circle, it is an elliptical. The path of Earth along this elliptical is known as an orbit. This means that during the summer and winter months Earth is at the shortest part of its path and closest and furthest from the sun. (If the Earth’s rotation was an egg, the summer and winter months would occur at the top and the bottom of the egg, while spring and fall would occur on the lengthier sides).

In the summertime, contrary to what we all might want to believe, the Earth is actually farthest from the sun and in the winter, early January, the Earth is closest to the sun. This is true for us and our Northern Hemisphere neighbors, but it is the opposite for those residing in the Southern Hemisphere. Two opposite seasons are happening at the same time in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, pretty cool! While we in the Northern Hemisphere are experiencing early mornings, hot breezes, and late sunsets, our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are experiencing much shorter days and cooler weather.

It is compelling, to me, that Earth seems to have a perfect configuration of rotational tilt and orbital path to give us a variety of seasons to enjoy and create meaningful experiences. How will you spend your longer days this year?