Summer Solstice 2019: The First Day of Summer

What You Need to Know About the Longest Day of the Year

June 20, 2019
Sun Tree on Water jpg
Pixabay

The June solstice 2019—the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere—will occur on June 21. Here’s what you need to know about the longest day of the year—plus more fun facts about the first day of summer.

When is the Summer Solstice?

In 2019, the June solstice is Friday, June 21, at 11:54 A.M. EDT. This date marks the official beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, occurring when Earth arrives at the point in its orbit where the North Pole is at its maximum tilt (about 23.5 degrees) toward the Sun, causing the longest day and shortest night of the calendar year. By longest “day,” we mean the longest period of sunlight. At the June solstice, the Northern Hemisphere receives sunlight at the most direct angle for the year.

Year Summer Solstice (Northern Hemisphere)
2019 Friday, June 21
2020 Saturday, June 20
2021 Sunday, June 20
2022 Tuesday, June 21

What is the Summer Solstice?

In the Northern Hemisphere, the June solstice (aka summer solstice) occurs when the Sun reaches both its highest and northernmost points in the sky. It marks the start of summer in the northern half of the globe. (In contrast, the June solstice in the Southern Hemisphere is when the Sun is at its lowest point in the sky, marking the start of winter.)

The word “solstice” comes from Latin solstitium—from sol (Sun) and stitium (still or stopped), reflecting the fact that on the solstice, the Sun appears to stop “moving” in the sky as it reaches its northern- or southernmost point (declination) for the year, as seen from Earth. After the solstice, the Sun appears to reverse course and head back in the opposite direction. The motion referred to here is the apparent path of the Sun when one views its position in the sky at the same time each day, for example at local noon. Over the year, its path forms a sort of flattened figure eight, called an analemma. Of course, the Sun itself is not moving (unless you consider its own orbit around the Milky Way galaxy); instead, this change in position in the sky that we on Earth notice is caused by the tilt of Earth’s axis as it orbits the Sun, as well as Earth’s elliptical, rather than circular, orbit.

The timing of the June solstice is not based on a specific calendar date or time; it all depends on when the Sun reaches its northernmost point from the equator. Therefore, the solstice won’t always occur on the same day. Currently, it shifts between June 20, 21, and 22.

The Summer Solstice is the day with the longest period of sunlight. Notice how the Sun appears highest in the sky at the solstice; its rays strike Earth at a more direct angle, causing the efficient warming we call summer. Because the Sun is highest in the sky on this day, you’ll notice that your shadow (at local, or solar, noon, not clock-time noon) is the shortest that it will be all year. [Local noon is when the Sun crosses the local meridian (an imaginary line between the North and South poles) and is highest in the sky for the day.]

For those who live in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the shortest day of the year and marks the arrival of winter.

See 7 fun facts about the June solstice!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is the Summer Solstice the First Day of Summer?

A: Yes and no… Technically, it depends on whether we’re speaking about the meteorological or astronomical start of the season. Most meteorologists divide the year into four seasons based on the months and the temperature cycle, which allows them to compare and organize climate data more easily. In this system, summer begins on June 1 and ends on August 31. Therefore, the summer solstice is not considered to be the first day of summer, meteorologically speaking.

Astronomically, however, the first day of summer is said to be when the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky, which occurs on the summer solstice (June 20–22). Therefore, the summer solstice is considered to be the first day of summer, astronomically speaking.

As an almanac, which is defined as a “calendar of the heavens,” we prefer to follow the astronomical interpretation of the seasons and do consider the first day of summer to coincide with the summer solstice. That being said, you may choose to follow whichever system you like best!

Q: Is the Summer Solstice the Longest Day of the Year?

A: Yes! As spring ends and summer begins, the daily periods of sunlight lengthen to their longest on the solstice, then begin to shorten again. 

On the solstice, the Sun is at its highest point in the sky and it takes longer for it to rise and to set. (Note: When the Sun appears highest in the sky near the summer solstice, the full Moon opposite the Sun generally appears lowest in the sky!)

On the winter solstice, just the opposite occurs: The Sun is at its lowest in the sky. At this time, its rays hit part of Earth at an oblique angle, creating the feeble winter sunlight.

Use our handy sunrise and sunset calculator to figure out how many hours of sunlight you’ll get in your location on the solstice!

SUnflower field

Q: Why Doesn’t the Summer Solstice Fall on the Same Date Each Year?

A: The summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere ranges in date from June 20 to 22. This occurs in part because of the difference between the Gregorian calendar system, which normally has 365 days, and the tropical year (how long it takes Earth to orbit the Sun once), which has about 365.242199 days. To compensate for the missing fraction of days, the Gregorian calendar adds a leap day about every 4 years, which makes the date for summer jump backward. However, the date also changes because of other influences, such as the gravitational pull from the Moon and planets, as well as the slight wobble in Earth’s rotation.

Q: Why isn’t the Summer Solstice—the longest day of the year—also the hottest day of the year?

A: Earth’s atmosphere, land, and oceans absorb part of the incoming energy from the Sun and store it, releasing it back as heat at various rates. Water is slower to heat (or cool) than air or land. At the summer solstice, the Northern Hemisphere receives the most energy (highest intensity) from the Sun due to the angle of sunlight and day length. However, the land and oceans are still relatively cool, due to spring’s temperatures, so the maximum heating effect on air temperature is not felt just yet. Eventually, the land and, especially, oceans will release stored heat from the summer solstice back into the atmosphere. This usually results in the year’s hottest temperatures appearing in late July, August, or later, depending on latitude and other factors. This effect is called seasonal temperature lag.

Q: What is Midsummer Day (June 24)?

A: Historically, this day marks the midpoint of the growing season, halfway between planting and harvest. It is traditionally known as one of four “quarter days” in some cultures. Folks celebrated by feasting, dancing, singing, and preparing for the hot summer days ahead. Read more about the ancient Quarter Days!

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Solstice Fun Facts

The solstice does NOT bring the earliest sunrise

Although the day of the solstice has the most daylight hours of the year, the earliest sunrises of the year occur before the summer solstice. The exact timing will depend in part on your latitude: In the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, it occurs about a week earlier than the June solstice.

The reason for the timing of sunrises is related to the inclination of the Earth’s rotational axis and Earth’s elliptical (rather than circular) orbit.

The latest sunsets of the year will occur several days after the solstice, again depending on latitude.

The Sun sets more slowly at the solstice

Did you know that the Sun actually sets more slowly around the time of a solstice, in that it takes longer to set below the horizon? This is related to the angle of the setting Sun. The farther the Sun sets from due west along the horizon, the shallower the angle of the setting Sun. (Conversely, it’s faster at or near the equinoxes.) Bottom-line, enjoy those long romantic summertime sunsets at or near the solstice!

See sunrise and sunset times for your area.

Seasons on Other Planets

  • Mercury has virtually no tilt (less than one-thirtieth of a degree) relative to the plane of its orbit, and therefore does not experience true seasons.
  • Uranus is tilted by almost 98 degrees and has seasons that last 21 years. 

See rise/set times for all the planets!

Solstice Traditions

Many cultures, both ancient and modern, celebrate the sunlight with rituals and holidays.

Every year on the summer solstice, thousands of people travel to Wiltshire, England, to Stonehenge—a mysterious prehistoric monument. See more about this ancient site.

In Sweden, people traditionally celebrated the beginning of summer by eating the first strawberries of the season. They also celebrated—and still celebrate—a holiday known as Midsummer’s Day, which is one of the four ancient quarter days of the year. Learn more about Midsummer’s Day.

Eating strawberries is the perfect way to celebrate the June solstice, since June’s full Moon is also known as the Full Strawberry Moon. It typically coincided with the ripening of strawberries in what is now the northeastern United States.

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There are many northern people like the Swedes who celebrate Midsummer’s Eve, too, dancing around the bonfire on the shortest night of the year. After all, these northern people have emerged from some long, dark winters! In the Austrian state of Tyrol, torches and bonfires are lit up on mountainsides.

According to ancient Latvian legend, Midsummer Even (St. John’s Eve) on June 23 is spent awake by the glow of a bonfire and in pursuit of a magical fern flower—said to bring good luck—before cleansing one’s face in the morning dew. Read more about fern folklore.

Summer Solstice Folklore

  • Deep snow in winter, tall grain in summer. –Estonian proverb
  • When the summer birds take their flight, goes the summer with them.
  • If it rains on Midsummer’s Eve, the filbert crops will be spoiled. –Unknown
  • One swallow never made a summer.
  • Easterly winds from May 19 to the 21 indicate a dry summer.
  • If there are many falling stars during a clear summer evening, expect thunder. If there are none, expect fine weather.

When does fall start? Click here to see the first date of each season.

2020 Almanac Calendar Club

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

So the other day..

we were discussing "heat units" ...as in "the corn needs so many heat units to grow tall"
So I'm asking you this beautiful SE Minnesota day what the heck is a "heat unit"
Thanks!

When one's shadow is really shortest.

Thanks for the interesting article. One correction or at least clarification: You wrote "Because the sun is highest in the sky on this day, you’ll notice that your shadow (at noon) is the shortest it will be all year."
That is true for those areas on Standard Time. But most of the U.S. is on Daylight Savings Time, so the shortest shadows in all of those areas will be at 1 PM on 6/21/2019. Correct?

shortest shadows

Hi there! Just before we got your question, we had updated the text to make this clearer. It is not the noon on a clock but the local, or solar, noon, when the shortest shadow occurs. Local noon is the time when the Sun crosses the North/South line (local meridian) and is highest in the sky for the day. Unfortunately, the difference between clock time and solar time is a bit complicated. There are formulas/calculators online to help you determine when local noon is in your area (it involves latitude, longitude, time zone, and some other data). Hope this helps!

Not always longest day

Actually, the longest day can sometimes occur one day before or after the Solstice. The explanation is a bit lengthy, so I'll just say that the reason is Time Zones.

summer solstice longest day

That's not true or perhaps I misunderstand your statement. The USNO site and every other source I’ve seen indicate that the day of the summer solstice is the “longest day.” I don’t see anything about time zones affecting length of day. There could be something quirky that goes on with time zone but I can not confirm, and it doesn’t seem to be a common thing.

Not Always Longest Day

Hello Chris. I stand by my statement, but I'll clarify it as follows: Every year the longest day of the year WILL occur one day before or after the Solstice for some places on earth.

In order for the date of the Solstice to be the longest day for every place on earth, every latitude would have to keep it's own "solar" clock. By imposing Time Zones we alter this "perfect" clock in at least 3 ways that I can think of.

1) DST, where observed, creates areas that are (usually) 1 hour apart from other areas that share the same latitude.

2) A map of actual Time Zones provides myriad examples of areas in the same latitude whose local clocks differ by anywhere from 15 minutes to over 2 hours.

In areas that share a latitude but have different local clocks, the solstice can occur when some areas are ahead of midnight and some are behind it. So these areas will celebrate the solstice on different dates, but will experience the same actual longest day.

Further, even if Time Zones were 24 equal slices of latitude and there was no DST, there would still be a sliver of latitude every year, abutting either the leading or trailing edge of the Time Zone nearest midnight, for which my initial statement applies.

An error in your description of when the summer solstice begins

You stated, "This date marks the official beginning of summer as the Northern Hemisphere angles itself at the point in its orbit closest to the sun, causing the longest day and shortest night of the calendar year." In fact, Earth is almost at its farthest point from the sun called aphelion, during the summer solstice. Around July 4th this year we will be farthest from the sun and closest to the sun in January called perihelion.

Thank you

Thank you for this. Some words apparently got garbled. As you pointed out, in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the North Pole that is tilted most toward the Sun at the June solstice, but the Earth (and its poles) is definitely not at its perihelion, which is in January. Warmer temperatures of the summer season are due largely to the more direct angle of the Sun’s rays reaching Earth (in June in the Northern Hemisphere) rather than to how close the Earth is to the Sun along its orbit (closest in January). We have updated the text.

FUN!

Thanks for being a fun place to get both my folk lore and astronomical-sciencey fix with seasonal & the day to day events! don't know how you do it but you bring those two themes together like peanut butter and jelly. Both are always exciting but really difficult to represent them together like this. Thanks so much for your talent, you guys are amazing!

Agree!

I second your comment. Love this website! Happy Summer!

A Complete Experience 2017

Remember to 'Wash and Polish Your Wedding Ring, with a Wish and A Prayer for Health, Wealth, Happiness' and A Complete Experience of The Summer Solstice.
Maybe give the dog and cat collar a splash of water and a wish, and The House Number ........

Amazingly Sweet & Sad )O(

I was on my way to visit with my Ma whom had had a double stroke. While I was going through security my phone rang and when I saw Ma's name I knew she was gone. I collapsed and I don't remember how I got to the gate, but there I was with Jet Blue employees helping me. Because of the time differential I assumed Ma passed to Spirit on the 21st of June. However, when I spoke to the funeral director he said she had passed on the 20th. I didn't realize the significance of this date until I got home and looked at my calendar which still was turned to June. I was hoping Ma could hold on until I got there (I was told she had a week, it turned out to be days) but she was gone before I got there. Now I know why. Though Ma's Spiritual Path was different than mine, she nonetheless understood and respected my Spiritual Path as a Moon Worshiper and an observer of the 8 Spiritual Rites I hold sacred. I believe this was the last gift she could give me. That she knew that every Full Moon I would dance and celebrate the Elders of my Religion and Raise a Cone Of Power. The fact that The Summer Solstice coincides with the Strawberry Moon is not lost on me. Summer was our favorite time of year, and strawberry shortcake was our favorite dessert. It is now July 14th and 3 weeks have passed. I have my waves of joy and sorrow and yet I am grateful to her for leaving me a remembrance that I will celebrate every Full Moon. )O(

1st Day Of Summer

It appears that within the last five to ten years (recent memory) someone decided to begin messing with the thought patterns of the Baby Boomers in relation to the First Day of Summer.
It has always been on June 21st prior to that time when the sneaky 'switch' started occurring.
As far as I can remember (all of my life), June 21st was the First Day of Summer.
Even the Almanac and all of the yearly calendars stated the same thing.

I'm sticking with the original date, June 21st because I like the idea of being a purist when it comes down to recognition of when Summer actually begins.
As for the 20th is concerned, it's just another day trying to hijack the original...

Enjoy the full moon tonight.

Solstice time

Summer starts when the Earth is at its most tilted towards the Sun, when our axis is pointed the furthest towards the South.
After this point, the axis begins its 6 month movement back towards North, until the Winter Solstice.
The actual date can and does vary.
This has nothing to do with anything but the Earth's tilt and its movement.

Summer Soltise

As I am not a farmer or no nothing of farming I was led to believe that the first day of summer is 21st June. Even Stonehenge and British Heritage say the same. Can you please tell me why then it is the 20th June to a farmer and does that change yearly because there seems to be some confusion.

First day of summer

My birthday is June 21st, I will be 54, and I can NEVER remember a year that the first day of summer was NOT June 21st.

Me too

I've always remembered the 1st day of summer being June 21st also. I feel for you, especially on your birthday. My youngest was born on December 20, and I've always told him that it was the LAST day of fall. It would change a lot if it was the 1st day of winter suddenly. This changing of dates is nonsense. They should stick with the reason we added February 29 in the 1st place.

Me too, to both

But I will be 52. Happy birthday, Karen!

My birthday is also the 21st

My birthday is also the 21st and I have had the same experience .. It has ALWAYS been the 21st!

1st day of Summer ?

I am 75 years old and have always known the 1st day of summer was on June 21st....my birthday in June 22nd, so it is something I have always paid attention to. Why is it the 20th of June this year?

First day of summer

Janetta, the summer solstice occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer. That can occur from June 20th to June 22nd. It is far more common on the 21st so this year has an additional "rarity" but a June 22nd solstice would be far rarer. BTW, for most of the Eastern Hemisphere the solstice WILL be the 21st. This year the first FULL day of summer will be on the 21st (forget all those other posters - the summer solstice marks the first day of summer),

Summer Soltice

this proves two things, that everything revolves around the thinking ot eh Northern Hemisphere and not Summer in Australia, and secondly that time and calendars are relevant and humankind has had to make a reference point to create the counting of time and years. Otherwise how would people decide what point on a circles circumference is the begining

Solstice

The Editors's picture

Hi Ron, FYI, The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a publication in North America; we sell our book in the United States and Canada. This is why we refer to Northern Hemisphere.

whew ! read all the way down

whew ! read all the way down to all comments and contradictions of who knows what and 'for sure' should never be questioned, not them, anyhow.

the slew of Information that may fit some and not others can all be combined in a delicious word-stew to share .... and served w/o pre-selections or arguments. Wouldn't that be a lovely 'share'? or a stomach-churning disturbance ?

dunno

My thoughts of Summer

My thoughts of Summer Solstice/Midsummer/Litha/Apex of the Sun's Rays,

Sleeping with the window open to take in the sounds of wildlife.
Getting up early with the Suns Ray in my face waking me somewhat gently.
Having a fan running circulating the breeze I might not get at the moment.
Taking in the thunderstorms with the rain & lightening. And charging the atmosphere with negative ions for healing of the earth's body and all of creation.
Walking about the garden either on the porch or grounds and gently brushing my hand across each plant and sniffing that hand.
Setting on the table & chairs minerals, flowers & statuary that is pleasing to meditation during the stay whenever it is that day.
And finally gently looking forward to the Earth preparing to go into her Croning becoming the Grandmother.
Having been the Mother now, and being the young Maiden during the Spring.
Such are the thoughts.
Love, Peace and Healing to all Beings
Earth wise & Celestial

Summer is beautiful. The

Summer is beautiful. The summer storms, the late nights, the social activities. And more.

Especially the mosquitoes!

Especially the mosquitoes! x.x

OK - maybe I'm archaic (50)

OK - maybe I'm archaic (50) but... when I was a child it was "universally" acknowledged that the equinoxes were mid-season. Our little classroom picture-calendars showed these seasons, and our children's TV backed them up. I'm only talking about the '60s and'70s now - not the 11th century :)
Our seasons were:
Winter - November, December, January
Spring - February, March, April
Summer - May, June, July
Autumn - August, September, October
Consider all the poetry, movies, songs and stories which are about or refer to the seasons - they all back this up. Yes I have seen snow, here in the UK, in May - which is why it is memorable and talked about - because it is unexpected and at odds with the season.
Even the explanation of Astronomical seasons above backs this up. Surely by the time the equinoxes are happening (earth tilted to / away from the sun)that is evidently a "mid-point" of something - not the "start" of something - and if these dates have to be used as "starting points" why commandeer the seasons for this use? The seasons are defined by the light and weather.
June is, and has been for generations, Midsummer. As someone pointed out - refer to Shakespear!

I thinks it's more like

I thinks it's more like winter: Dec, Jan, Feb /spring: Mar, Apr, May/ summer: June, July, Aug/ fall: Sept, Oct, Nov. Midsummer to me seems more of a reference to the middle of the yr than the middle of a season. Maybe I'm wrong lol.

I agree. August is DEFINITELY

I agree. August is DEFINITELY still summer. Especially where I'm from: Texas.

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