Summer Solstice Explained

By: Stephen Bowers Email
By: Stephen Bowers Email

For most people, the summer solstice simply means the official start of the season when temperatures soar. For us in the south, it also means afternoon thunderstorms.

But take a trip south of the equator and things change. While we see warm temperatures in North America, those south of the equator experience their cold season. But why?

Most of us know that the earth rotates on an axis that is tilted. The tilt of the axis is about 23.5 degrees from being perfectly vertical. Earth also revolves around the sun once a year, and as Earth makes its journey around the sun, that tilt changes with relation to the sun.

At 6:59 p.m. June 20, 2008, the north pole will be pointed directly at the sun. That marks the summer solstice.

Meanwhile, the south pole is pointing away from the sun. The sun's high angle north of the equator increases heat energy from the sun which causes the warmer temperatures.

South of the equator, the angle of the sun is much lower, so less heat energy reaches the areas in the southern hemisphere, and that's why their temperatures are cooler.

While those in Australia bundle up, summer means trying to find ways to stay cool for us. My advice: ice cream and a swimming pool!


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  • by Mary Location: Maryland on Dec 21, 2008 at 10:15 AM
    Important to note: The north pole never points "directly at the Sun". The Earth's tilt is always 23.5 degrees. At the winter solstice the northern hemisphere is TILTED away from the Sun, and at the Summer Solstice it is TILTED toward the Sun.... always at 23.5 degrees.
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