Chicago Weather

Meteorological summer begins Saturday — but the 2024 summer solstice comes later

The summer solstice and meteorological summer take place on two different dates

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Chicago beaches are open, and Saturday officially starts the beginning of meteorological summer -- but that's not the same thing as the summer solstice.

While the first day of meteorological summer is Saturday, June 1, astronomical summer, which uses equinoxes and solstices to mark the start of seasons, begins at approximately 3:50 p.m. CST on June 20, according to timeanddate.com.

At that time, the Chicago area will have approximately 15 hours of sunlight.

What is the summer solstice?

The summer solstice is the time when the sun reaches its highest and northernmost points in the sky, according to the Farmer's Almanac.

It is also known as the day with the longest period of sunlight, or the longest day of the year - for those in the Northern Hemisphere.

While the solstice does not take place at the same time each year, it typically falls anytime between June 20-22.

"Our solstices are caused by the slight tilt in Earth’s axis in relation to the plane of its orbit," a blog from the Adler Planetarium said. "This tilt is about 23.5 degrees off-vertical. As a result, when Earth circles the Sun each year, a different half of the globe is leaning slightly towards or away from the Sun."

As the summer solstice approaches, the amount of daylight increases each day while the nights get shorter. After the summer solstice, the amount of daylight gradually diminishes each day, until the winter solstice—which falls on December 21 this year.

"The summer solstice occurs in the northern hemisphere when the northern half of the globe has its closest tilt towards the Sun of the year," the Adler said. "Conversely, it’s also when the southern hemisphere experiences the winter solstice, as the southern half of the globe is at its furthest tilt away from the Sun."

Why is it called a solstice?

According to Adler, the word solstice "means that the arc of the Sun—or Sol—stops in the sky."

The word has a Latin origin, coming from solstitium - sol, which means sun, and stitium, which means "still or stopped," the Almanac reports.

Sunrise and sunsets during the summer solstice

While the solstice marks the day with the most sunlight, it does not mark the date of the earliest sunrise or latest sunset.

According to timeanddate.com, the latest sunsets of the year will occur in mid-to-late June, with the sun going down at approximately 8:30 p.m. The city will see over 15 hours of daylight through most of the month, though that number will start to decrease after the summer solstice on June 20.

Fortunately the area will continue to see sunsets after 8 p.m. through Aug. 8, according to the website.

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