When is the first day of summer 2016?

20 Jun 2016

The summer solstice is upon us, marking the most hours of sunlight we’ll receive all year. Let the summer officially commence!

Two-way street

There are two ways of determining summer: meteorologically, or astrologically. The former relates to the Gregorian calendar upon which so much of our lives depend.

So, 12 months of the year, divided into four seasons. autumn is September-November, winter December-February, spring March-May with summer beginning on June 1, ending at the end of August.

It’s not majorly scientific, but it gives meteorologists a platform to work on, making it easier for meteorological observing and forecasting to compare seasonal and monthly statistics.

It’s also at least one full month off what I thought when I was in school.

Specific time

But, anyway, astronomically, the seasons are tied down in more acute, yet varying, ways. The four seasons are determined by either a solstice or an equinox, relating to Earth’s orbit around the sun.

Astronomical season calendar, via Met Office

Astronomical season calendar, via Met Office

This year the summer solstice begins today (20 June), more specifically tonight at 10.34pm IST, signifying the day with the most daylight on the calendar.

This is when the tilt of the planet’s semi-axis is most inclined toward the sun.

With that, Google has produced a doodle to mark the first day of summer. If only the weather behaved in such a disciplined way.

The first day of summer 2016

We like to party

The summer solstice is celebrated in various ways around the world. For example, in the UK, thousands will flock to Stonehenge, the 5,000-year-old monument that is aligned in such a way that the sun shines through the pillars today.

Called midsummer – or some derivative elsewhere – there are similar gatherings in other countries like Sweden, which goes particularly big on this event.

Here in Ireland, the winter solstice is celebrated at Newgrange for much the same reason, with the sun (when visible) shining through the passages and chamber within, for just a few minutes each year.

Stonehenge image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic