Happy summer solstice!
On June 21, the tilt of the Earth on its axis is most pointed to the sun for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.
That makes it the longest day of the year, with the sun rising in Minneapolis at 5:26 a.m. and not setting until 9:03 p.m. — just over 15 hours and 36 minutes — or a glorious 56,210 seconds of daylight.
Maybe it's finally safe to put away the snow shovel.
For some of us, summer solstice isn't a day to savor and celebrate. It's a day to fret because it's all downhill from here. On June 22, the days start getting shorter thanks to the inexorable orbit of the Earth around the sun.
We only lose a few seconds of daylight per day at first, but the decline in light slowly accelerates until we're down 3 minutes of daylight per day in September. That keeps going until we reach the depths of darkness of the winter solstice on Dec. 21, when we'll have just over 8 hours and 45 minutes of daylight.
Kenneth Blumenfeld, senior climatologist with the Minnesota State Climatology Office, is familiar with the pang of anxiety some of us feel when summer solstice arrives.
"In a way, that's the Minnesota mind-set. 'Days are getting shorter. Start preparing for winter,' " he said.
But don't tune up the snowblower just yet.
Though we will be gradually losing daylight, the hottest days of summer are still ahead. That's because the cumulative effect of long days of strong sunlight won't reach its peak until July and early August, Blumenfeld said.
And we still can look forward to what climatologists consider the nicest time of the year — September and early October — characterized by pleasant temperatures, low humidity and clear skies.
"The muscle of summer, all the things that make summer summer, is still ahead of us," Blumenfeld said. "There's a lot of outdoors time to look forward to."
Head north for sun
If you really want more daylight, there's a simple solution: Head north.
At this time of year, the farther north you are, the more daylight you'll experience. Even going to White Bear Lake on June 21 will buy 44 more seconds of daylight than you'd have in Minneapolis, according to timeanddate.com. In Duluth, you'd have an extra 15 minutes of daylight.
You also could have a longer day in more northerly cities like Seattle, Paris, London or Berlin. Even Milan is a bit farther north than Minneapolis. If you head all the way up to Helsinki, daylight on June 21 is more than three hours longer than it is in Minneapolis.
(If you're wondering why Minneapolis weather is so much more arctic than more northern cities like Seattle or Paris, it's because we're separated by mountains and miles from the climate moderating effect of an ocean. Lucky us!)
Of course those places that are more northern pay for their longer summer days with a longer night at the winter solstice. At the end of December, Helsinki experiences less than 6 hours of daylight per day.
On the bright side
But shorter days aren't all bad. There's something to be said for a longer night. Sometimes, as Ray Charles put it, the night time is the right time.
For example, when the day is shorter, you don't have to wait until it's practically your bedtime (and past the kids' bedtimes) before it's dark enough to see fireworks or an outdoor movie.
If you're one of those people who have to get to bed by 8 because you have to be on the job early, it's a drag trying to get some shuteye behind closed blinds when the rest of the world is still whooping it up outside in the light.
Candlelight and fires in the fireplace aren't nearly so hygge when the sun is blazing high in the sky.
When it's dark out, it's easier to check out the interiors of your neighbor's houses from the sidewalk by looking into their illuminated windows.
And it's hard to sleep in on the weekends when there's sunlight and birdsong pouring in through your windows before 6 a.m.
And don't dread the lengthening night. At least not yet.