After a spring characterised by some indifferent weather, things are finally brightening up in the UK now that June has arrived.
But does that mean that summer is here? The answer can be yes or no, depending on the method you use to calculate the seasons.
When does summer 2023 start?
What you deem to be the first day of summer depends on whether you are using the meteorological or astronomical definition of the seasons.
The meteorological is the simpler of the two. This splits the year into four seasons of three full months apiece based on the Gregorian calendar, which makes it easier to compare seasonal and monthly statistics.
According to this system, every year summer begins on 1 June and lasts until 31 August, with autumn then getting underway on 1 September.
The astronomical season is less straightforward as it starts upon the date of the summer solstice, which comes later in June and can vary slightly from year to year.
In 2023, the solstice falls on Wednesday 21 June, its most common position in calendar and the same as the last two years.
By this definition, the season of summer will then last until the autumnal equinox, which arrives on Saturday 23 September this year.
What happens on the longest day of the year?
The longest day and the shortest night of the year is marked by the summer solstice, when Earth’s north pole has its maximum tilt towards the sun.
As well as marking the start of the astronomical summer, the solstice can also be known as midsummer – because the days begin to get shorter after it has passed.
The winter solstice (or midwinter), which tends to fall around the 21 December, marks the shortest day of the year and the start of the astronomical season.
According to the website Time and Date, on the date of the summer solstice the sun will rise in London at 4.43am, and set at 9.21pm, delivering 16 hours, 38 minutes and 22 seconds of daylight to the capital.
And in Lerwick, on the Scottish island of Shetland, the sun will rise at 3.38am and set at 10.34pm – with 18 hours, 55 minutes and 35 seconds of daylight.
For six months each of the year, either the northern or southern hemisphere is pointing slightly more towards the sun, bringing the warmer temperatures of spring and summer.
The autumnal and spring equinoxes mark when the two hemispheres swap over, while the summer and winter solstices denote the sun reaching its most northerly and southerly points.
Solstices have become synonymous with Stonehenge and paganism, with the occasion of the year’s longest day celebrated by cultures all over the world since prehistory.
Spain usually celebrates midsummer with a traditional party in honour of Saint John the Baptist, held on the evening of 23 June.
Despite the Christian elements, the pagan origins of the festivities are honoured with the widespread lighting of bonfires, and the gathering of traditional medicinal plants.
In Mongolia, shamanism is widely regarded as the national religion, but it was banned for 70 years under communist rule, and has had a resurgence since 1992 – shamanic fire rituals attached to the summer solstice therefore have a valuable cultural purpose.
Although to people in the UK the maypole is more commonly seen in the month of May, in Sweden the similar ‘majstång’ (or ‘midsommarstång‘) is associated with the period of the solstice.