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Weathercatch: Hello, summer solstice! Dog days to arrive later

The sun rises as thousands of revellers gather at the ancient stone circle Stonehenge to celebrate the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, on June 21, 2015, near Salisbury, England. (Tim Ireland / AP)
The sun rises as thousands of revellers gather at the ancient stone circle Stonehenge to celebrate the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, on June 21, 2015, near Salisbury, England. (Tim Ireland / AP)

When summer officially begins at 3:07 a.m. Thursday, temperatures will be warm, but not at the heatwave-level predicted until just a few days ago.

Originally, a high-pressure system was expected to bring clear skies and push temperatures into the 80s and 90s throughout much of the state. Now there’s a chance of showers and thunderstorms, with temperatures running 5-10 degrees cooler than anticipated.

What happened? The forecast models changed to reflect a weak weather system moving through the region on Thursday.

It’s interesting to note that the dog days of summer typically don’t arrive until July or even August. This, at first glance, seems to defy logic. If the sun’s intensity is highest on summer solstice, why do our warmest days come later in the season?

This delay is called the “lag of the seasons,” meaning that it takes time for the sun to heat up landmasses and oceans. It’s akin to a pot of water on the stove taking time to boil after the burner is turned to high.

The bottom line? Even though we will lose slivers of daylight after the solstice, summertime weather will be just getting started.

The solstice will deliver 16 hours of sunlight to the Pacific Northwest, compared to only 13 hours, 45 minutes in Miami and 14 hours in Houston. So open the curtains or blinds, grab an iced tea and read a little more about this astronomical event:

    Summer solstice brings not only the longest day of the year, but also the longest sunrise and twilight.

    The solstice occurs at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on the planet.

    At that instant, winter begins south of the equator.

    Last year’s summer solstice was hot, with highs in the upper 80s and low 90s throughout the Inland Northwest.

    Summer solstice 2016 coincided with a full moon for the first time since 1948.

    Solstice 2010 was wet across the Inland Northwest with heavy rain showers and flood watches.

    Solstice 1986 was the coolest on record, with a low of 38 degrees.

    Solstice 1918 was the hottest on record, reaching a high of 103 degrees in Walla Walla.

    The first day of summer doesn’t start when the last school bell rings, despite what many grade school students gleefully believe.

Nic Loyd is a meteorologist with Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet. Linda Weiford is a WSU news writer and weather geek. Contact: linda.weiford@wsu.edu or nicholas.loyd@wsu.edu.


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