It's Spring! See How the Sun is Getting Higher Every Day | Almanac.com

It's Spring! See How the Sun is Getting Higher Every Day

height of sun in spring and summer
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Here Comes the Sun!

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The most dramatic happening in the sky in springtime is not unfolding at night. It’s in the day. Yep, here comes the Sun! Let’s take a look at how our Sun is getting higher more quickly every day.

Many folks assume that the change to warmer weather in springtime is due to the Sun being out longer and longer—the growing change in daylight length.  That’s partially true. But the biggest factor in our transition to spring is the height of the Sun.

With the spring equinox in March, the Sun rises higher in the sky with each advancing day, reaching a maximum height at the summer solstice in June. Plus, the next two months of spring bring the year’s most rapid change in midday solar elevation!

Never stare at the Sun, of course. But many of us take quick squinting glances to see how high up it appears at Noon. Or, glance down at the shadows made by the Sun. Two months ago it was pretty darn low from everywhere in Canada, Europe, and all of the United States except for the south. But check it out now. It’s dramatically higher.

To use real numbers, let’s assume you live somewhere around the typical 40 degree latitude of Philadelphia, Columbus,  Indianapolis, and Denver. 

  • On February 26, the noonday Sun is 41° high. 
  • Less than a week later, on March 3, its 43° high. That’s four Sun widths higher up! In just a few days!
  • On March 21, the first full day of spring, its 50° high, or roughly 20 Sun diameters higher than it is right now.  The practical effect of this is to make the solar rays noticeably more intense.  You can easily feel the difference on your skin.

Flashlight Fun

A quick demonstration of Sun angle involves aiming a flashlight at a white surface. In a slightly darkened room, point the beam of the flashlight onto a white wall. If you point it straight at a direct 90° degree angle, it shines the brightest. 

But aimed at an angle that’s less direct, the light is dimmer. If you make the angle very pronounced, by holding the flashlight flat against the wall, the light’s intensity is greatly diluted. Clearly, the direct 90° degree angle provides more intense light than the angled one. 

Same with the Sun. We’ve been living with diluted sunshine since late October. Think about the Sun in wintertime. It never gets very high above the horizon. But the next eight weeks sees the year’s greatest solar intensity alteration. 

Path of the Sun

By June, the Sun passes almost (but not quite!) directly overhead, high Sun is high above the horizon! It’s a big brightness boost for we who live in the northern hemisphere, and the greatest annual diminishing for our Aussie and Kiwi friends. Those with solar panels will see the change too, in the numbers displayed on the meter.

Looking at the Sun’s path, you can also see that the Sun is in the sky longer as we approach summer, making for longer days. 

Credit: National Maritime Museum

This brings us to the next question. Wouldn’t a Sun that appears further away from the horizon result in cooler temperatures versus warner temperatures? And why is the Sun higher in the sky in summer? The answer lies our article about the “Reason for the Seasons.”

About The Author

Bob Berman

Bob Berman, astronomer editor for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob is the world’s most widely read astronomer and has written ten popular books. Read More from Bob Berman

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