Last Wednesday, June 1st, was a big date in the weather calendar. It was not only the official start of hurricane season, but also the first day of meteorological summer. What does it mean – “meteorological summer”? Is it a new season that we don’t know about? A reader asked this this week.
What is meteorological summer and is it different from what we know as summer?
Meteorological seasons differ from astronomical seasons. Meteorological summer is defined as the months of June, July and August and therefore lasts from June 1st to August 31st. Astronomical summers, or seasons, are based on the Earth’s position relative to the Sun.
Both the Earth’s 23.4 degree tilt on its axis and its orbit around the Sun define the seasons with two equinoxes and two solstices. The Spring or Spring Equinox is on March 21st and the Autumnal Equinox is on September 22nd. The winter solstice is on December 22nd and finally the summer solstice is on June 21st.
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The Earth loops around the Sun in 365.24 days, causing an extra day every fourth year known as leap years. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), the exact days of solstices and equinoxes vary, making it difficult to maintain any consistency when comparing climatological statistics from year to year. Therefore, according to the NCEI, meteorological seasons were started to maintain consistency. The meteorological seasons make it easier to calculate statistics for trade and agriculture.
So when it comes to meteorological summer or any season of the year, they are grouped into three months. And according to the NCEI, they are based on the annual temperature cycle. So the meteorological summer is June, July, August; autumn is September, October, November; winter is December, January, February; and finally, the meteorological spring is March, April and May.
Video: Watch Sunday’s weather report with meteorologist Kirsten Lang.