During the summer, the Earth reaches aphelion, its farthest point from the Sun for the year.
Aphelion can fall anywhere between July 2 and July 6 in a given year. At that point in its orbit, the Earth is 94,509,130 miles from the Sun, a difference of about three million miles from its closest point, or perihelion. At that time Earth will be at a distance of 91,407,282 miles from the Sun.
It may seem strange to learn that while the U.S. and Canada experience their hottest temperatures of the year, the Earth is actually farther from the Sun than at any other time during the year.
Even though most of us learned in school that seasons are controlled by the tilt of the Earth’s axis, rather than by its distance from the Sun, many people forget. We experience summer or winter conditions based on whether our half of the Earth is pointed toward the Sun or away from it. While we’re experiencing summer in the Northern Hemisphere, our neighbors to the south are battling ice and snow, and vice versa.
A three million-mile change in relative distance may sound like a lot, but our overall distance from the Sun is so great that this otherwise large figure amounts to a drop in the vast astronomical bucket of infinite space. This slight change in distance has virtually no effect on our weather throughout the year.
So, while you’re sweating and slathering on the sunscreen this summer, try to remember that the Sun is actually three million miles farther away than it was in January. Maybe that will help you feel a little cooler.