Eric Elwell: 7 surprising facts about summer

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Eric Elwell: 7 surprising facts about summer

Ready or not, here comes summer.

Summer will officially begin early tomorrow morning just after midnight, at 12:24 a.m. Granted, it has felt like summer for much of the last week thanks to the heat and humidity.

For the Northern Hemisphere, summer begins when the sun’s zenith reaches its northernmost point and the Earth’s North Pole tilts directly towards the sun, at about 23.4 degrees. It’s also known as the northern solstice because it occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere. Of course, this is the first day of winter for the Southern Hemisphere.

Typically, the first day of summer is also the longest day of the year. Because summer officially begins just after midnight Wednesday morning, both today and Wednesday will have 14 hours, 59 minutes and 19 seconds of full daylight. After Wednesday, we will lose about 3 and a half minutes of daylight by the end of the month and then lose over 40 minutes in the month of July.

Here are seven other interesting facts about the summer months you may or may not know:

1. The word solstice derives from Latin, meaning ‘sun stands still’. This word was chosen because when the solstice occurs the sun appears to stand still.

2. Every year on the summer solstice, a unique baseball game is played in Fairbanks, Alaska on the solstice since the sun is out for almost 24 hours. The game begins around 10 p.m. and ends around 1 a.m. without any artificial lighting. The tradition originated in 1906 and has been played every year since 1960 by the Alaska Goldpanners.

3. The Eiffel Tower in France grows more than 6 inches thanks to the expansion of iron due to the heat of summer.

4. The dog days of summer typically are the weeks between July 3 and August 11. And no, it has nothing to do with it being so hot that dogs are lazy and lay around. The name came about because the Greeks and Romans associated the hottest days of summer with the star Sirius. Sirius was known as the “Dog Star” because it was the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (large dog). Sirius also happens to be the brightest star in the night sky. Sirius is so bright that the ancient Romans thought it radiated extra heat toward Earth. During the summer, when Sirius rises and sets with the Sun, they thought Sirius added heat to the Sun’s heat to cause hotter summer temperatures.

5. Summers in the northern hemisphere are typically hotter than summer in the southern hemisphere due to the differences in amount of land masses. There is more land mass in the northern hemisphere which heats up faster than water. Of course, land also cools faster so typical winters in the southern hemisphere are milder than those in the north.

6. Earth is not the only planet to have a summer solstice. Mars’ solstice occurs a few days after earth’s June solstice. On Uranus, each summer solstice lasts for 42 years. This also means that each winter solstice lasts the same amount of time for the opposite hemisphere. Let’s just be thankful that we get to enjoy our seasons more often than every 42 years!

7. Finally, one of my most favorite facts is this one: Watermelon is the most popular summer vegetable in the United States. Watermelon is part of the cucumber, pumpkin, and squash family and consists of 92 percent water. The average American consumes 15 pounds of watermelon annually. Wow!

Eric Elwell is WHIO StormCenter 7 Chief Meteorologist. Contact him at eric.elwell@coxinc.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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