Summer is coming early this year, and it has nothing to do with this week’s scorching weather in Denver.
The summer solstice takes place on Saturday at 3:43 p.m. MDT, making it the earliest official arrival of the summer season in 124 years. On Saturday afternoon, the sun’s rays will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer, the furthest north they’ll go all year.
As the earth orbits the sun, it wobbles around on a 23.5 degree axis, giving us seasons as the earth tilts towards the sun at varying angles. Denver’s relatively far north latitude (Denver is just shy of 40 degrees north) means the earth’s tilt is felt more strongly here than places closer to the equator.
This year’s summer solstice will be the earliest since 1896. That’s thanks to this year’s leap year.
We have leap years because of the amount of time it takes the earth to orbit around the sun is a bit, well, funky. It takes approximately 365.242189 days for the earth to circle the sun. The added day every four years brings us to 365.25 days.
There are other, however, rarer corrections for the remainder of the fraction: mainly, the skipping of leap years three out of every four century-turning leap years (as in 2100, 2200, 2300, etc).
Without exploding your brain too much, leap years get earlier after centuries with a leap year. For that reason, summer solstices will, on average, get earlier and earlier until 2100, which will be a skipped leap year.
The earliest summer solstice this century will take place on the final leap year before the skipped 2100 one. On June 20, 2096, the summer solstice will take place at 12:32 a.m. MDT.
If you want extra details (warning: you’ll probably want to wear your thinking cap for this one), give this a read.
Now, the differences between summer solstice times are fairly minute. For example, in 2016, the summer solstice took place at 4:34 p.m. MDT – less than an hour later than this year’s solstice.
Of course, the summer solstice also marks the longest day of the year. On Saturday, the sun will rise at 5:32 a.m., and it won’t set until 8:31 p.m. in Denver, according to the sunrise and sunset tracking website timeanddate.com. Twilight will last until 10 p.m., if not later, especially north of the metro area.
Enjoy the nearly 15 hours of official sunlight this weekend. On Sunday, the long, six-month countdown to the winter solstice will begin, with December 21st marking the shortest day of the year.
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