It did not matter on Saturday if the sun did not appear, and there was a chill in the air, and the day was the coolest of the entire month of June in Washington. Despite the seasons seeming to have their signals crossed, the summer solstice occurred.
It’s a question of astronomy and celestial mechanics, the inexorable movement of the heavenly bodies. Even if the high temperature in Washington on Saturday was only 75 degrees, it may now be declared that we are in the season of summer.
It is a matter of the tilt of the axis of the earth, and of the northern hemisphere leaning as far toward the sun as it ever does. The moment when that happens, which this year in Washington was 6:51 a.m. Eastern time Saturday, is commonly regarded as the start of summer.
The 75-degree high temperature at Reagan National Airport did not seem to signal summer. It was lower than the top temperature of every other day this month. Until Saturday, June 1 was the coolest, by that standard, with a high of 77. The only other June day with a high in the 70s was June 14, with a 78-degree reading.
People could be forgiven this year for arguing that summer truly began on some other day. June 17 was a good candidate. The mercury reached 97 degrees and set a record for the date. It was the second of three consecutive 90-degree days last week.
Those three 90-degree readings in succession met many people’s standards for a heat wave. It was the first heat wave of the season and was certainly more suggestive of summer than was Saturday.
On Saturday, at the time of the solstice, it had been overcast in Washington for a while, so the sun could not readily be seen. At about the time when the sun would have appeared to be at its northernmost point, light rain began to fall in Washington, helping to foster the impression that April was coming around again.
Or at least mid-May.
At Dulles International Airport, that spring-like sensation was even more pronounced. At the time of the solstice, a soupy blend of rain, fog and mist had cut visibility to three miles. The mercury stood at 65 degrees.
The week to come is expected to be far more reminiscent of Washington’s image of genuine summer weather.
A National Weather Service forecast predicted Sunday night that Monday’s high temperatures would be in the mid-80s, with Tuesday’s a couple of degrees above that.
By Wednesday, according to the forecast, temperatures could once again touch the 90-degree mark that is generally regarded as symbolic of summer and its well-known Washington heat.