Summer officially begins today with the summer solstice.
On this day, the North Pole is at its closest point to the sun, making it the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
But if that’s the case, why do temperatures get warmer as the summer progresses instead of the longest day of the year being the hottest?
William O’Toole, weather prognosticator for The Gruber Almanack LLC, which produces the “Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack,” said that it takes time for the energy from the sun to heat up the atmosphere.
“Think of when you’re boiling water, it takes a lot of energy to get it to that point,” O’Toole said. “So now we’re heating up.”
The energy from the sun that heats the Earth over the next four to six weeks is what creates the warm temperatures in the summer, he said.
The Earth’s rotation on its axis creates the seasons. When the Northern Hemisphere is pointing toward the sun, it is summer there and winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
It works the same way for the Southern Hemisphere, O’Toole said. The axis is tilted sideways during the spring and the fall, creating more moderate weather.
This summer, area weather experts have predicted higher temperatures and more hurricanes than normal.
O’Toole said Thursday that he expects summer temperatures to be a little warmer than normal this year in the area.
The average summer temperature in Hagerstown is 73.4 degrees, according to statistics at Hagerstown Weather Observer Greg Keefer’s website at http://i4weather.net.
“It’s probably going to be a little warmer, but I don’t expect any long hot cells or any record-breaking heat,” O’Toole said. “We’re probably going to get a lot of moisture.”
O’Toole said he determines his weather prognostications by using the Herschel Chart, which was developed by European settlers 500 years ago and based on the changes in phases of the moon.
O’Toole said that the method likely does not work as well as it did 300 years ago due to climate change.
National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Witt also said he expects temperatures to be warmer than normal this summer, especially toward the end of July.
“Late July, early August, we’re looking at temperatures that could get 5 to 10 degrees above normal,” he said. “That’s the warmest time of the year.”
O’Toole said he also expects a dry spell during that time, but that the area will otherwise probably get a lot of moisture.
Witt and O’Toole both predicted that total precipitation levels will be normal in the area, which is around 11.4 inches, according to Keefer’s website.
However, O’Toole said that hurricanes could affect the area.
“We’re probably going to be affected by hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast or remnants from the Gulf Coast,” he said.
HMTV6 Meteorologist Kris Nation said that there could be more hurricanes than average this year.
“Typically, we see three to five named storms on average, but this year we could see seven to 10,” he said.
Nation said that the predictions for eventual hurricanes are based on the number of storms forming in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast and the amount of moisture over the ocean.
“The more moisture it picks up, the faster and stronger hurricanes can develop,” he said.
The hottest average temperature for the summer months in Hagerstown was 77.7 degrees set in 2010, according to Keefer’s website. The highest precipitation level was 24.8 inches in 1996.