The longest day – MID summer – Summer solstice- St Johns Day….186 days until Christmas

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  • The sun rises above the horizon as dawn breaks behind the stones at Stonehenge in Wiltshire during the Summer Solstice: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/Press Association Images

    dawn breaking at the World Heritage site at Stonehenge: Chris Ison/PA Wire/Press Association Images

  • The longest day – MID summer – Summer solstice- St Johns Day….186 days until Christmas
    21.06.2014 15:08

    In England and Wales the 16 hours and 49 minutes of which the sun is above the horizon is celebrated by a harvest of strawberries and the start of the Wimbledon Championship. A mass gathering at Stonehenge will also take place as the sun rises and sets perfectly on the Heel Stone. This ancient monument shows how important this day was to our most ancient forefathers. In the Nordic nations the Midsummer eve is the greatest festival in the year, with strong ties to the Pagan beliefs, where fires are lit to ward away demons that walked freely on the night the sun moved southwards once more. This day is also echoed within the Christian church as the feast of John the Baptist, who was martyred.

    In the southern Hemisphere this is the shortest day and for the few British bases in Antarctica, such as Halley, this will mark the middle of 3 months of darkness. It is celebrated here by a huge feast and a trading of gifts that each crew member makes for a fellow base member. The day is rounded off when messages from home are broadcast over the World Service to the isolated communities and presents, that have been delivered from home month before, are finally shared around. This gives some ‘warmth’ to the crew who are currently enduring temperatures of -17.6C.

    Here in the UK the solstice is marked by a much warmer day, with temperatures around 24C in southern parts of the UK today. As the high pressure systems continues to stay close to the west of the UK the weather looks set to remain settled over the next few days and on the whole dry, with sunshine and variable cloud.

    The 6 months of weather since the shortest day on 21st of December have been vastly different. In the first few winter months the UK was under a barrage of storms bringing lots of rainfall, high winds and damaging gusts to many places. Many parts of England were left submerged under flood water by these events. However, the unsettled and relatively warm conditions for winter led to a pleasant surprise in March as the storms relented and a high pressure system moved in. Although the storms had finally abated the warmer temperatures stayed and with the return lengthier sunny periods, March saw highs of 20.9C in St James Park on the 30th. It was the warmest and sunniest March since 2012 and the 11th warmest in 100 years. April had spells of sun and rain and in the end averaged out to be a pretty standard month. However, May was the wettest since 2007 with only 10 wetter in 100 years. Finally, this month has so far been warm with temperatures soaring to 26.8C in Southampton on the 13th of June.

    As the sun begins to return southwards once more we are left to wonder what the next 6 months will bring.

    By: John Griffiths