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

I agree. Midsummer = Mid

I agree. Midsummer = Mid season. Not the start.

Summer Solstice

Emerald Rose, I completely agree with you. They talked about it in the article above. You are referring to the meteorological seasons, and I am in full agreement. June 20-21 is MID-SUMMER. According to older pagan calendars, Summer began in May, so it makes sense that this date would be mid-summer. Yes, Shakespeare said it, too. I agree with how you divide the seasons. I think of June as "Early Summer", July as "Mid-Summer", and August as "Late Summer". Forget about Summer in September … by then it's early Fall. Thanks for your comments!

"When Razorium lizards all

"When Razorium lizards all come together, the first day of summer will be shredded into happiness." -Proverb

Is there a name for when the

Is there a name for when the 1st day of summer (summer solstice) ends and the 2nd day of summer begins?

Yes. It's called midnight.

Yes. It's called midnight.

Brilliant!

Brilliant!

Let's not bring the "mid or

Let's not bring the "mid or start" argument here.

Summer Solstice Arrival Time

No, the start of Summer is NOT "midnight".
Summer in 2017 begins at 09:24 Pacific time, the exact time when the Earth axis is most tilted South towards the Sun.
It then starts moving back towards the North until the Winter solstice.

If the Summer Solstice is the

If the Summer Solstice is the first day of Summer, how come it's called Midsummer's Day? It can't be both the beginning and the middle of Summer.
Summer is the season that follows Spring and is followed by Fall (or Autumn). By age-old convention, in the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer months are June, July and August. The Summer Solstice has nothing to do with it.

Laurie, do you know of

Laurie, do you know of Shakespeare's great comic/romance play, "A Midsummer's Night Dream"? It takes place during the Summer Solstice, the longest daytime period of the year followed by the shortest nighttime period of the year in June...a time for magic, whimsy, beguilement, & fantasy.
"Midsummer" is also an agricultural term that indicates the 1/2 way mark between planting in the spring & harvesting crops in the fall :) You can check in the Oxford English Dictionary for further origin details.

Laurie, these are facets of

Laurie, these are facets of traditional reckoning of time. Light is steadily increasing up until the summer solstice, and as soon as the solstice has passed, daylight begins to decrease. So while it is the first day of summer by the almanac, by traditional reckoning of time the solstice is more naturally a midpoint: Midsummer.

The same happens at the winter solstice, when we sing "In the Bleak Midwinter." The winter solstice is the longest night of the year.

It helps, I think, to look at the natural year like a clock: the summer solstice is kind of like noon, or midday. The winter solstice is kind of like midnight. Hence midsummer and midwinter. It takes a bit of getting accustomed to, but these are old, old ideas more attuned to the natural seasons.

I talk about this traditional reckoning of time thing quite often in my Convivio Book of Days Blog, easily found through a web search. Best, John Cutrone

Laurie, I would recommend

Laurie, I would recommend checking out the "Wheel of the Year" which reflects a more accurate and ancient division of time and seasons. Pagans have celebrated these dates for centuries. The solstices and equinoxes are always at mid-points in the seasons. The popular calendar uses the four celestial events as a matter of convenience to mark four seasons. The "Wheel" divides the year more accurately for those who farm, and offers twice the reasons to celebrate.

Summer Start and Mid-Summer

Summer Start and Mid-Summer are just made up terms for the solstice. It is the sun at its zenith in the Northern Hemisphere. It doesn't matter if you call it "Sun Day!"
Yes, it used to be called Mid-Summer on this day. Now it is called the first day of summer. Not a big deal. I like thinking of it as the first day of summer due to the earth's lag time in temperature. The world and water heats during the May-July months making it generally hotter in August. We earthlings want to acknowledge to our young that summer is hot. Winter is cold. We have now made the solstice the start of summer because it corresponds to the hot-cold formula more regularly.
I like to call it baseball season!

Summer 2013 is an important

Summer 2013 is an important Summer because the house always wins meaning a deck of playing cards is divisible four ways! But the house lost in Miami last night so have a wonderful Summer 2013!

June 21st is a very special

June 21st is a very special day indeed for my firstborn child & only son arrived on this day in 1981. Everyone laughs when I remind them how auspicious that day truly was in our household! In 1981 you see June 21st was the longest day, first day of summer plus Father's Day. My husband became a Father for the first time that day! I can also attest to the length because my labor lasted for 20 hours! Memories made & memories yet to be made await us all each & everyday so please enjoy yourselves as this wonderous warm weather season begins!

Oh Wow, lots of things

Oh Wow, lots of things happened for on this day in 1981.
20 hr labor? Thats no fun. I am glad you made it through. Enjoy the summer :)

Mulberries...

Mulberries...

I live in o side ca and I

I live in o side ca and I will ccntinue. To kiss the sunset away as we do every day when as the sun sets on a beautiful day omg I love life,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, I am a cancer girl you know that I am loving it,,,,,,,,,,,,!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bring on summer solstice I love my man, and he loves me! He is the greatest man in the world or to watch him surf in to the sunset might be good as well or paddle out with him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Or go to the sun set fair on Thursday night. Enjoy your summer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When I was a youngster,

When I was a youngster, living in the northern latitudes, I place rocks on the north side of the house that marked the shadows of the summer and winter solstice and that of the equinox. While others celebrated the First Day of Spring, I celebrated the arrival of Sunshine on the rock equinox! The Day marked the moment when the sun arrived on OUR side of the equator! On that day I would skip school and in later years, take the day off work, in celebration!

But even at a young tender age, I had noticed that the rock nearest the house, would be in sunshine for only a few days. I watched the lengthening shadows after the summer solstice in June, and as a teen, realized that late June must actually be mid-summer!

I also knew it would be a short time before the sun would warm waters enough to go swimming! But the first day of summer meant school was out, and I would play and frolic
till the lengthening shadow nearly reached the rock of The Equinox!

That really is quite

That really is quite romantic.

To: The Old Man Dan Re:

To: The Old Man Dan
Re: When I was a youngster

Wow! What a wonderful memory! Thank you for sharing it here!

Tina

This sounds like a wonderful

This sounds like a wonderful thing to start doing with my family... The moments of memories like these are truly aspiring. Can you please tell me more about how it worked?

Since the tropic of cancer

Since the tropic of cancer marks the northward limit of the sun, and I live north of that line, how can the sun shine on the north wall of my house in the morning and afternoon in the summer?

At the summer solstice, the

At the summer solstice, the Sun is overhead at the Tropic of Cancer, which means that there will be no shadow at that location at that point in time. This is the farthest north the Sun will be overhead. (At any point north of this line, except at the pole where it is totally dark in winter, you will always have some shadow.)

Except for Hawaii, all states in the United States, as well as all of Canada, are north of the Tropic of Cancer. In summer, the Sun will rise in the northeast and set in the northwest. However, the arc the Sun travels in the sky during the day is tilted toward the south, and in summer part of that arc crosses the east-west line to hover in the south. So, from sunrise to sunset in the summer, the Sun will be located in the sky in these approximate directions relative to your position:

Northeast (sunrise)
East (when the Sun crosses the East-West line)
Southeast
South (at local noon, Sun is highest overhead for the day)
Southwest
West (when the Sun again crosses the East-West line)
Northwest (sunset)

So, as I understand it, for a northern wall of a house with no obstructions, you'll need the Sun to be in a northerly direction. In the continental US and Canada, this happens in summer in the early morning (about northeast) and late afternoon (about northwest).

Although I totally agree that

Although I totally agree that June 20th etc is actually mid -summer,and Dec 21st is actually the middle of winter, I also take note that statistically the highest and lowest average temperatures usually occur Aug 1st-6th, and coldest, Feb 1 thru Feb 5th. This is due to the earth needing time to heat up, or cool down. Like a pot of water on a fire, once it heats up, and the heat is removed, the water takes a while to cool off. Thus Gregour and Pup above in their comments are quite correct. Look at the average tempatures and you will see that they are the highest in the first week of August, and lowest the first week of February. This is because the Earth needed time to heat/cool and the waining less direct sun has little effect until the heat or coolness it retained starts to wear off. As such the June 21st/ Dec 21st dates are not to far off LOGICALLY since the maximum effect is reached 6 weeks later.

I'm mad!!! Since when is the

I'm mad!!! Since when is the first day of Summer on June 20??? My birthday ( and my daughter's) is on June 21 and THAT is the first day of Summer! Has been forever. Summer used to slide in about 1AM on June 21...we are bummed When did this abomination happen? Is this "global warming"? Does anyone have an answer?

It's not exactly the same

It's not exactly the same time every year. If the year has a leap day (Feb 29), the summer soltace will occur on June 21. The year prior to leap year, the summer soltace will happen on June 20. Also, it varies depending on your time zone.

The first day of summer (or

The first day of summer (or any of the seasons for that matter) are not calendar events, they are astronomical events. Summer starts when the Sun reaches its furthest point north of the equator (the Tropic of Cancer). This year that is at 1:04am EDT on June 21. However, if you live in Mountain Time (like I do) it will be at 11:04pm on June 20. It has nothing at all to do with "global warming."

It's different every year and

It's different every year and not just for the summer solstice.

All the comments,

All the comments, meteorological, astronomical, and historical are science combined with tradition. It is the first OFFICIAL day of summer! Celebrate!!

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