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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Just what we need in this heat: The year’s longest day

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Photo: Mr. Siraphol / Freepik

This is a news flash for people weary of these hot days with the strong sun beating down. Days start to get shorter this week, thanks to the summer solstice.

The middle of this week won’t just be hot, topping at 40.5C / 105F. Wednesday, June 21, will be the longest day of the year. It will be, after all, the summer solstice.

This is also when the earth’s tilt toward the sun is at a maximum. The sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, at 23.5 degrees latitude north, and runs through Mexico, the Bahamas, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India, and southern China. 

So the unrelenting sun will be at its most blazing. It rises at 5:18 a.m. and it sets 13 hours and 19 minutes later at 6:37 p.m. The day will also be one second shorter than Tuesday. 

Yay, one less second of sun! Those of us who moved here for the sunshine will have had our fill.

The following days will continue to be shorter, in tiny increments. A week later, a full minute of daylight will be replaced with a minute of night sky. One less minute of the sun beating down on our hapless heads. And one more minute of nighttime for night owls going to nightclubs. 

The day’s duration begins to decrease until reaching the winter solstice in December. The day will the year’s shortest: 10 hours and 35 minutes, which is still a pretty healthy stretch of daylight.

But something else will break the triple-digit heat with more certainty. Thursday begins five consecutive days with a chance of rain, according to our weather apps. (We have three apps, and they never agree, but this appears to be a consensus.)

By Saturday, we are predicted to get into the high 90s, finally out of the triple-digit zone. Sunday’s promised 97 degrees Fahrenheit / 36 degrees Celsius will be considered a break in the heat, relatively speaking.

This astronomical phenomenon was observed by Maya in antiquity. The Castillo pyramid in Mayapán, an archaeological site in Yucatán, is oriented in such a way that the projection of its profile on one of its four stairs occurs during the solstice.

Yucatán is known for its heat, but there is one state in Mexico that’s even hotter, on average. It’s Tabasco, where today’s highs reached 42C / 107F. 

Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012.
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