Photo of last year’s Summer Solstice from Space: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
What is the Summer Solstice?
It marks the onset of summer and the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. The timing of the solstice depends on when the Sun reaches its farthest point north of the equator. The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains, the word “solstice” is from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), reflecting the fact that the Sun appears to stop at this time (and again at the winter solstice). In temperate regions, we notice that the Sun is higher in the sky throughout the day, and its rays strike Earth at a more direct angle, causing the efficient warming we call summer. In the southern hemisphere, June 21st is the shortest day of the year (the Winter Solstice).
When is the Summer Solstice in Hawaii?
Summer begins on June 21 at 12:52 am Hawai‘i Standard Time. Since I became a Meteorologist / “Weather Girl” in 2007, I’ve been asked about “the longest day of the year”… in Hawaii, people find it confusing. If you look on a tidal calendar for the sunset and sunrise times – in Kahului for example – the sun rises at 5:45am and sets at 7:10pm BUT that’s also the sunrise/sunset timing for June 22nd too! Before & after that, our sunrise/sunset fluctuated a minute or two a day but the overall “length of day” was actually pretty much the same giving us about 13.5 hours of daylight here in Hawaii.
Why doesn’t the “length of day” in Hawaii fluctuate more?
If you lived on the equator you would have 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness year-round. Our Hawaiian islands are just 1500 miles north of the equator. Since Hawaii is located “near” the equator (relatively speaking), the length of our days and nights doesn’t change that much throughout the year - like I said above, our longest day is about 13.5 hours long, so that makes our SHORTEST night about 10.5 hours long! (Some of our mainland friends are probably envious! lol)
So is the Summer Solstice REALLY the longest day of the year? Even in Hawaii? The answer is YES! In areas like Hawaii that are close to the equator, it comes down to SECONDS. June 21st is the longest day of the year… in Kahului, it clocks in at thirteen hours, 24 minutes AND several seconds.
<NOTE: When dealing with times that precise, location is everything. So even being a few miles north or south can change the sunset / sunrise time by a few seconds in your area.>
So why is the Summer Solstice a big deal?
Some places on earth, like, say… Tacoma, Washington - which is about halfway between the equator and the North Pole – will get 16 hours of daylight and only 8 hours of night! That IS a big deal!
Mahalo to Meteorologist Robert Ballard for chatting with me about this subject!