CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Do you know why it's hotter in the summer than in the winter?
If you said it's because we're closer to the sun in the summer, that would be wrong.
In fact, would you believe we're actually farther from the Sun in the summer than in the winter? It's true! The earth's orbit around the Sun isn't a perfect circle. It's more of an ellipse. The place where the planet is closest to the Sun is called perihelion. When the Earth is the farthest away from the Sun, it's at aphelion. The Earth reaches perihelion (closest approach to the sun) typically around January 4! It reaches aphelion around July 4.
The real reason it's hotter in the summer is because of the Earth's tilt. In the summer, the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun. That means there are more sunlight hours each day. (It comes up earlier and sets later so there's a longer time for heating.)
An even bigger effect is that the sun's rays are more direct. The direct rays reach Earth and heat up the ground. That in turn heats the air above it. In the winter, the lower sun angle is less effective at heating the ground… which is less effective in heating the air above it.
The summer solstice (usually around June 21 or 22) is when the sun's rays are the most direct. It's also the longest day. You may not have noticed but the days are already getting a little shorter and the sun's rays are a little less direct as we move toward the winter solstice.