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

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I completely agree with you!!

I completely agree with you!! Thank you for making an educational response.

Yes, the definition of when a

Yes, the definition of when a season begins can vary between countries, cultures, organizations, and individuals. For example, the ancient Celts considered equinoxes and solstices (called quarter days) as the midway points of the seasons. Their cross-quarter days (halfway between quarter days) were the beginning of the seasons. Astronomically speaking, however, the seasons begin at the equinoxes and solstices, which define four unique points along Earth’s orbit, in which the Northern or Southern Hemisphere tilts toward the Sun (summer), away from the Sun (winter), or is neutral--neither leaning toward nor away from the Sun (spring, autumn).

An astronomical definition does not directly take into account what is going on within Earth’s atmosphere. Other definitions focus on how the Sun’s intensity (energy) or heat affects the surface. A meteorological definition of seasons, for example, often is based on temperature. An international meteorological definition separates the year into groups of three months: March 1 is the beginning of spring; June 1 starts summer; September 1, autumn; and December 1, winter. However, days of greatest warmth and cold (on average), or length of season, can vary by region depending on their proximity to water, latitude, prevailing winds, etc.

Other seasonal definitions take into account annual responses by plants and animals. Or, define the seasons according to religious or cultural criteria.

For The Old Farmer’s Almanac, because we are a calendar of the heavens, we officially use the astronomical definition. But, we certainly agree that there is more than one way to define when the seasons begin.

So let's see. There are 52

So let's see. There are 52 weeks in a year, meaning if all seasons equal, they all last 13 weeks. If you are saying that summer runs from May 1st to the fall equinox (approx. Sep 21st), then you are claiming that summer lasts about 20 1/2 weeks. I assume you say Winter runs from Nov. 1st to the spring equinox. You should make it more clear that you think summer and winter lasts 20 1/2 weeks and fall and spring only 5 1/2 weeks - a theory I've never heard or you should go back and do your math before beating up the almanac.

You are absolutely correct,

You are absolutely correct, June 20th (or 21st, as the date varies) is actually MID-Summer, with Summer having begun on May Day or May 1st. Our modern almanacs, calendars, and often weather people are simply wrong when they say "Summer begins on June 20th". As often happens in our modern world, the older traditions and definitions-- usually more accurate due to our ancestors having been far better attuned to the Earth and her cycles-- have become blurred in the rat race we now find ourselves in the midst of. I'm not sure how those who are supposed to know these things ever got something so simple so wrong, but they did. By the way, 20 or 21 December is also Midwinter, the middle of Winter, and not the "First Day of Winter", which is actually the 1st of November.

Being a meteorologist, we

Being a meteorologist, we work with climatology a lot. Temperatures across North America can be placed into "Meteorological" seasons. Meteorological Summer begins June 1st, Fall begins September 1st and so on. Sometimes you'll hear the local TV weather person mention this.

Hi, Ted, thanks for the info.

Hi, Ted, thanks for the info.

If this is the case, I would suggest all the meteorologists get together and learn that the "meteorlogical" seasons do not reflect the astronomical seasons (anymore than chill factors accurately reflect actual temperatures), and address this in your broadcasts. I feel this is precisely one of the major reasons so many are confused regarding the true beginnings and midpoints of both Summer and Winter.

As for your "Meteorological Summer" beginning on June 1st, my garden and yard would beg to differ. We planted around the first of May, and by the first of June everything was in full growth phase.

One last thing... if you're saying "Meteorological Summer" begins June 1st, why do all of our local meteorologists continue to try to claim Summer begins on June 20th?

Wouldn't it just be a lot simpler (and far less confusing) if everyone-- the meteorologists, the almanacs, the calendars, and whomever else might be considered "knowledgable" in this field-- just admitted they had it wrong for a time and went back to the true and accurate designations? I think most of the public would appreciate it greatly. I certainly know I would.

You know, Lyndon, I agree

You know, Lyndon, I agree 100%. That has been bothering me for a long time, too. I just get so upset when everyone gets it wrong. I mean, I could be outdoors playing with my dog or going to a pool party, but instead I stay indoors and blog on the computer to split hairs because this subject is so important to me. Those dang meteorologists!!

depends on if you are going

depends on if you are going by the pagan calendar or the astronomical calendar. And which pagans you talk to.

Each season lasts 13 weeks or

Each season lasts 13 weeks or 91 days. So the MiD-winter day would have to be about the 45th/46th day of the season. If Nov. 1st was the first day of winter then Dec 21st would be about 51 days out - how could that be the middle ?

People keep arguing about when the sun starts to head back the other direction whether you want to call that the beginning of a cycle or the middle - it really doesn't matter, it's the same event happening at the same time as decided by God and earth and nature. What overlay measuring system any man, religion or culture uses to measure how it fits into their own lives doesn't change anything.

I 100% agree with you, but

I 100% agree with you, but it's really just semantics at this point. All the pagan cultures that compiled the basic mapping for our present-day meteorology have been wiped out, and their holidays misconstrued. But of course the names MIDsummer and MIDwinter are a clue to their ancient meanings. Not to mention, think about the weather? And "Groundhog's Day"? It was originally called Imbolc and marks the change of the weather from winter to spring.

The pagan cultures may have

The pagan cultures may have disappeared, but the beliefs are, obviously, still held and the Feast Days still celebrated by many. This is very similar to the misconception of when the new century began. If you really consider it, the old millennium actually ended Dec 31, 2000 the last day of the 2000th year, and the new millennium actually began Jan 1, 2001, or the first day of the 3000th. We do say 21st century, do we not? But everybody celebrated it (and feared it) a year early. If the world really was going to come to the end with the end of the 20th century, would it be 'just semantics' if that little surprise hit us on Dec 31, 2001? We live with our heads so stuffed with what we hear and read, that we don't bother to think things through for ourselves anymore. (When was the last time someone actually counted out change to you instead of just looking at the cash register and saying "Your change is $x.xx"?) It's a good thing that the Earth doesn't depend on our arbitrary naming of things to carry on her grand schedule!

There were a lot of people

There were a lot of people that thought it Dec 31,1999 was the end of the century. Most realized it actually wasn't but it was the first time we actually hit the year 2000 that was celebrated. The fear was not so much the start of a new century but how computers were not set up to recognize anything beyond the year 1999. If you were a computer programmer you would have spent months to years trying to write programs to keep everything running.

You've got yourself in a fog

You've got yourself in a fog (I hope you don't drive as you'd probably drive the wrong way on a freeway and kill someone). Listen up, Fog-Bound....both Solstices and both Equinoxes signify the beginning (not the middle) of their respective seasons.
Got it? I can't draw you a picture here (you'll just have to trust me on this, F.B.)

Well, Casey, you are half

Well, Casey, you are half right. The Equinoxes mark the balance of the length of day and night, one in the Spring and one in the Fall, so one could say they mark the astronomical beginning of those two respective seasons. However, the Solstices mark the high point and the low point of the Sun as it effects the Earth. In the Northern Hemisphere, Winter Solstice marks the shortest day at the same time it marks the longest day in the Southern Hemisphere. This rule is reversed for the Summer Solstice. Each marks the MID-point of these two solar cycles, not the beginning of either.

Start of summer or winter

Start of summer or winter depends on WHERE you are if you go by weather & feel...Northern border states, inland, will be colder than States on the ocean, for example. Ocean states will still get winter, but not as quickly...so dates are chosen for OTHER reasons.

If we went by "weather and

If we went by "weather and feel", there'd be no point at all in even acknowledging the Solstices or Equinoxes. In fact, I guess using that sort of logic, we would have to hold off Christmas until we had snow and Easter until it was fair enough to hold egg hunts.

There is a time lag, and two

There is a time lag, and two different "calendars" (as in, reference systems) ... (& I live in the Northern Hemisphere, seasons are reversed in the Southern, which might help, or just add confusion) ... if we lived anywhere off of the Earth entirely, we could still measure those astronomical (and astrological) cardinal points OF THE Earth's celestial orbit, so in fact some now refer to that as the Northern Solstice (and Midwinter is the Southern Solstice) ... later as the sun angle reduces, we are still warming more than we cool off into space, so the weather calendar, as it were, for the "pastoral year" makes more sense for us who actually go outside sometimes, and it is offset from this, by the amount you mention ... I DO NOT know why meteorologists join in the sloppy habit of calling that the "Official Start of Summer", but for example, Meteorological Summer began on June 1 and will cover the "summer months" as we experience them here (North America).

for example I notice in one

for example I notice in one of these, this Almanac observes both, one for reporting astronomical events correctly, and meteorological seasons re: a weather calendar, which makes good sense.

lets not bring meteorologists

lets not bring meteorologists in on this they start summer on May 31st, Memorial day, and fall on Labor day August 31st, winter on thanksgiving or soon there after and spring on March 1st. Meteorologists have just muddied the waters.

I live in Arizona. When the

I live in Arizona. When the temperatures are going to heat up above 110 degrees, the little red ants get VERY busy and aggressive. They furiously build new nests and attack anything that moves near the entrance. The rest of the year they are hardly noticeable.

Signs of Summer - contribues

Signs of Summer - contribues to a peaking of natural systems. Heat this year seems a little early but there are records that say that is not unusual and sets no records. Snow is a little late since some flooding is now happening in the mid-west and upper Mississippi Valley, contrary to opinion that flood is not nearly over. Piled dirt does not a levee make, it takes aged piled dirt with roots and natural compaction to hold back water, got to be there long enough to mature some or we are just plain lucky when it works and is a new pile of dirt. Every things else is in vain. I suspect all animals and plants have sense to know summer soltice where ever they are and that intelligence or wisdom is handed down from generation to generation in every species with exception, humans, we don't seem to learn from practice or experience, animals and plants have seen success or mortality of their current nesting fruiting attampts and know time is running out for them in relation to have a successful nesting with a living healthy chick or young or seed for next season and that food, some of this seasons new growth, will become a little more scarce with change in atmosphere and climate rotations, having been eaten as a young or maturing enough to hid, fight back or jsut out run others oong neough to grow up some. It is when plants, arid and aquatic should be matured or fruiting if they are going to repopulate with enough excess to foster a new generation that must wait for a freeze or some kind of reinstituation of vitality to grow anew again. Plants and animals like us have a sense of night, day, cold, hot and in between; wet, dry, windy and calm, bright sun, cloudy, raining, drought, and adjust commonly and intuititively. They use it like we use it, they for life processes, we for work, play, good, bad and in between reasons however they like God said subdue it,, he didn't say kill it all, but enough to get by. Humans do more to quell nature: making hot when it is cold, making cold when it is hot, wet where water should not be, us where it is unhospitable and us where it is unethecial, killing out of anget and sickness and when not hungry. We do this in church, halls of congress, in or out of uniform, in our homes, bedrooms and living places, in our use of things and in our behavior.
Summer soltice is any other day that is naturally hot in most places on this side and on the other end of earth, winter soltice, is cold in most places. Luckly the deviding line is the equator where weather and climate is made, even the cold ends of earth is the result of what happens near the center of earth and is possibly driven due to rotation of earth , that centrificual rotation that spins every thing aerodinamicly and the only fully established method of energy and force of a natural claim to sustainablity, it spins floational and air bornes out as far as it can go making kenetic energy that does drive climate and atmosphere and from that we get all our variables in summer, winter, and climate exchanges making weather. One of two most important days in our rotation, the other one winter soltice. How lucky can we get.

Wow, just relax and enjoy

Wow, just relax and enjoy it.

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