The Summer Solstice is today. More precisely, it is 2 hours and 51 minutes after this post goes live at 12 AM Alaska Daylight Time.

I don’t live quite far enough North to see the midnight sun from the ground. I have seen it from a light plane, as increased altitude makes the sun look higher above the horizon. (More accurately, the horizon looks lower.) It is possible to drive about 100 miles, admittedly on a dirt road, and see the midnight sun from Eagle Summit, northeast of town.

Officially, it’s the first day of summer. It is the day that the north pole points most nearly directly at the sun, and in the northern hemisphere the days are longest and the sun is highest in the sky. The North Pole actually receives more incoming solar radiation at the top of the atmosphere over the 24 hours of that day than does any other point on Earth. Of course much of it is reflected back to space by sea ice, which is one of the reasons the Arctic sea ice is so important to the Earth’s climate.

It is emphatically not the day that the sun is closest to earth! In fact, the earth will be at its most distant from the sun in less than two weeks, on July 3. Perihelion, when the earth is closest to the sun, was last January—January 3, to be exact.

I don’t drive up to Eagle Summit myself—too crowded if the weather is good, and I’ve been up here so long the light sky at midnight seems normal. But here’s a video from two years ago.

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