Despite the heat and humidity this week, our planet is actually at its farthest point from the Sun today. According to the U. S. Naval Observatory, the Earth reaches a point in its orbit called "aphelion" at 8 o'clock EDT this evening. The Earth's aphelion is the point where it is the farthest from the Sun than at any time during the year.
The Earth is typically about 93 million miles from the Sun. However, because our planet's orbit is not a perfect circle but an ellipse, it has a farthest point and a closest point to the Sun. In case you're wondering, the Earth's closest approach to the Sun is called perihelion, and that occurs in early January. The Earth is exactly 3,104,641 miles (or 3.28 percent) farther from the Sun than at its closest approach. The Earth actually receives about seven percent less heat at its aphelion than at its closest approach, according to researchers.
Although the date for both will vary from year to year, the Earth will always be closest to the Sun in early January and the farthest away in early July. Not surprisingly, that comes as a surprise to most people. At perihelion, our planet is about 91 million miles from the Sun. It moves outward to about 95 million miles from the Sun at aphelion. Naturally, some people have the mistaken impression that our seasons are caused by the changes in Earth's distance from the Sun, but this is not the case.
The temperatures and the seasons are not affected by the proximity of the Earth to the Sun or even the rotation of the planet on its axis. Rather, it is the tilt of the Earth that determines the climate. When it is at perihelion in January, the Earth is tilted away from the Sun in the Northern Hemisphere, and the sunlight is not "getting a direct hit" on the Earth's atmosphere. However, when it is at aphelion in July, the Earth is tilted toward the Sun.
Officially, at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford, the high temperatures each of the last two days were 87 and 88 degrees, respectively. Today's high is expected to reach the middle 80s. The normal high is 82 degrees. So, as you cool off at the pool, beach, or by the air conditioner today, take comfort in the fact that our planet is farther from the Sun today than at any other day of the year.
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Strong thunderstorms pushed through southwestern Connecticut late yesterday. A hot and humid air mass triggered the storm outbreak as the mercury climbed to 88 degrees at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford. Officially, a half-inch of rain was recorded at the airport, but many local communities received more rain. Andrew Colabella took this photo during the severe thunderstorm in Westport.
Nick Ferrando, an aspiring meteorologist and storm chaser who follows me on Twitter, took this photo of lightning in Stratford.