By Ricky Matthews
VIPIR Weather Intern
Summer officially begins Friday morning at 1:04 AM. That’s the time known as the summer solstice. During this time, most of the sun’s direct rays hit the Tropic of Cancer. It is the longest day of the year because the earth’s north pole is tilted directly towards the sun. On this day, the sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer at 23.5° north latitude on a line that runs between Cuba and Florida.
On June 21st, the Summer Solstice, we receive 14 hours, 41 minutes, and 23 seconds of sun in Hampton Roads. In the days leading up to the Summer Solstice, the amount of daily sunlight goes up. After the solstice, our daily sunlight goes down until we reach the Winter Solstice in December when the whole cycle repeats itself!
However, the Summer Solstice is not the day when earth is closest to the sun. This actually happens on January 4th! That’s when earth is 91,445,000 miles away from the sun. So you can see the important role the tilt of the earth plays in our seasons.
With the Solstice officially starting summer, here’s a few things to remember when you’re outside enjoying the great weather Hampton Roads has to offer:
* Understand what the Heat Index is. Heat Index is a combination of air temperature and relative humidity that determines the temperature the human body feels when outside. On a warm, humid day in Hampton Roads, our heat index can easily soar into the triple digits. Prolonged exposure to heat and sun can cause muscle cramps, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Heat stroke is a life threatening situation that requires immediate medical attention.
* Be aware of rip currents. Rip currents form when waves travel from deep to shallow water and break near the shoreline. As this happens, waves break with different strengths in different locations. This causes circulation in the water, which results in currents of narrow, fast moving belts of water to form. Rip currents are most common during periods of tidal change.
One way to spot rip currents is by looking for a channel of choppy, churning water or an area that has a notable difference in water color. Other clues may be a line of foam moving outward of a break in the incoming wave pattern. Ask the lifeguard on duty what the rip current risk is when you head to the beach, or look on the National Weather Service’s Beach Hazard’s forecast page HERE.