Ready for those long, hot, humid, dog days of summer? The new season will officially start on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, as the summer solstice occurs at 5:14 am Eastern time.
The solstice marks the first day of summer here in New Jersey and the rest of the northern hemisphere, and it will be the longest day of the year in terms of daylight — because the North Pole will be tilted at its maximum direction toward the sun.
On June 21, we will see exactly 15 hours, 5 minutes and 37 seconds of daylight in the New York City area, 15 hours, 5 minutes and 48 seconds of daylight in the Newark area, and 14 hours, 56 minutes and 47 seconds of daylight in the Atlantic City area, according to the time experts at TimeAndDate.com.
The summer solstice — also known as the June solstice — is simply a celestial term for the start of the summer season.
Although many people think the full day of June 20 or June 21 is the solstice, technically it’s just a brief moment in time, according to astronomy experts at Space.com. Here’s how they explain it:
“The summer solstice for the northern hemisphere is the exact moment when the axial tilt of the Earth is at its most inclined toward the sun during its 365-day orbit — at an angle of 23° 26′. That doesn’t happen at midday, nor does it happen at midnight; it happens at the exact same time for every country on the planet. It isn’t like a New Year’s celebration when the clock strikes midnight across the time zones in turn — this is a global time event, with the solstice occurring at the same moment.”
The word “solstice” was derived from the Latin word “solstitium,” according to the Voices.Earth blog. It’s a combination of sol, which means sun, and stitium, which means to stop.
The latter word refers to the sun appearing to briefly stop moving at the moment summer arrives.
For people who work in the weather industry, like forecasters for the National Weather Service, the summer season starts on June 1 and covers the three hottest months of the year, ending on Aug. 31. They call it the meteorological summer.
For most of the rest of the world, summer officially starts on June 21 this year and runs through Sept. 22. And the season is known as the astronomical summer — based on the position of the Earth during its rotation around the sun.
Some years summer arrives on June 20 (as it did in 2021), and other years it starts on June 21 (like this year). On very rare occasions, it arrives on June 22. (The last time that happened was back in 1975, and the next one won’t occur until 2203, according to TimeAndDate.com.)
“It all depends on when the sun reaches its northernmost point from the celestial equator,” the Old Farmer’s Almanac notes. “Therefore, the solstice won’t always occur on the same day.”
Across the United States, the unofficial start of summer is widely considered to be Memorial Day weekend in late May, when many summer vacation rentals begin at the Jersey Shore and other coastal areas.
Others start their summer vacations on or around June 21, but for many folks, the time is dictated more by school schedules than by the summer solstice. In other parts of the world, people pay close attention to the solstice, holding big celebrations with food, drinks, music and dancing.
Some people even shed their clothes as part of their ritual to welcome the first day of summer.
The world’s most famous solstice celebration takes place at Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument of massive stones in England. At Stonehenge, thousands of people typically gather for a multi-day festival of music, dancing, drumming and camping to watch the sun rise and welcome the start of summer.
The festival has gone through a transformation and some setbacks during recent years.
In 2016, drugs and alcohol were officially banned from this annual celebration, and attendance dropped by about half, according to a report by the BBC. Organizers reportedly blamed the attendance drop on bad weather.
The Stonehenge festivities were canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, then canceled again in 2021 for the same reason. The celebration is scheduled to return this year.
Note: Parts of this article were originally published in June 2019, and time references have been updated for June 2022.
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Len Melisurgo may be reached at [email protected].