First day of summer: When is summer solstice 2017?
We could say that summer in Oxford is great so far except that it is not summer yet.
The summer solstice 2017 does not occur in the northern hemisphere until June 20 at 11:24 p.m., which means we have more than a week remaining in spring before the astronomical summer begins.
The summer solstice, of course, occurs when the sun is tilted the farthest toward the sun, yielding more direct sunlight and more hours of sunlight (the summer solstice occurs on the longest day of the year).
But try telling school children and teachers that it is not yet summer. They operate on the academic calendar rather than the astronomical calendar, so it has been summer for most since about Memorial Day weekend, at the end of May.
Meteorologists are closer in line with school calendars than astronomical calendars, since the meteorological calendar aligns with the shift in temperatures patterns, meaning that the first day of summer for official weather types is June 1 — almost three weeks before the summer solstice.
For Oxford, the June 1 summer start makes more sense because that’s when temperatures began to soar, according to historical data. The average high temperature here in May, for instance, is just 80 degrees, but that jumps in June to 88 degrees.
We all know what happens in July, of course, the month Deep South residents pay for our sins of enjoying many other comfortable months of the year. In July, Oxford climbs to a high of 91 degrees, with an average low of just 69.
People that don’t know like to say conversationally to visitors to our region that August is actually our hottest month of the year.
“Huh,” they’ll say when one remarks on our trademark high heat and humidity in July. “This isn’t even the worst of it. August is terrible.”
But that’s not the heat talking, it’s the stupidity, since August is not actually hotter here than July. It’s close, with August averaging a high of 90 degrees and a low of 67 degrees, but close doesn’t count in historical weather data. It is either hotter, or its not. And, August is too hot, but it is not hotter than July.
The point, however, is well taken: August feels hotter because we are all so weary from it by then. That, and the fact that school starting back in high temperatures amid wardrobe changes from shorts to longs means that August may not be hotter, but it is certainly more annoying.
And that’s the thing about weather: It’s more about how it makes us feel, our physical interpretation of data.
My daughter, for instance, will claim she’s cold in 78 degrees one moment, but hot in the same temperate another moment. It’s about the circumstances.
That’s why most of us in the Deep South consider humidity more of a sign of summer than the actual temperature. Two weeks ago, for instance, the temperature was cooler than these recent days, but it felt much warmer, due to higher humidity.
We typically have about four-and-a-half months with high humidity in Oxford, running from late April to early September. So we’re apt to label anything in that time frame summer, setting a standard that disagrees with both the meteorologists and astronomers.
But the truth of it all is that we can have several different starts to summer, including official, unofficial and metaphorical, but nothing really changes. It’s going to be hot, and it’s going to be hot until at least the first day of fall.
The meteorological start to autumn is September 1, but odds are high that we’ll need to wait until the official autumnal equinox to claim the beginning of fall, since our heat never seems to know when to end.
That comes on September 22. By that point, we’ll be more than ready for a change.
David Magee is Publisher of The Oxford Eagle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.