Hot town, summer in the county but not this year, so far.
On Friday, the summer solstice, the prolonged gloom endures for at least part of the day, and the typical seasonal heat and humidity is AWOL in the Berkshires and most of the Northeast.
Although skies could clear soon after summer officially begins at 11:54 a.m., marking one of the longest days of the year, a bright, breezy, comfortable and rain-free weekend is likely to followed by another patch of dreary, showery skies early next week.
In fact, no summer heat — defined as temperatures near 90 — is on the horizon for the next 10 days, according to meteorologist Joe Cebulko at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.
But patient warm weather fans are likely to be rewarded, according to the government's Climate Prediction Center outside Washington, D.C. The Northeast can expect a good chance of warmer than normal temperatures in July and especially in August, along with less frequent rainstorms and showers, based on the long-range outlook updated on Thursday.
That would be a welcome change for Berkshirites, following a prolonged, mostly cool spell of frequently cloudy skies, with rain on 13 out of June's first 20 days, on the heels of a dismal May with rain on 24 days of the month.
The summer solstice, astronomers point out, is caused by our planet's tilt on its axis — right now, the Earth's orbit causes the Northern Hemisphere to lean toward the sun, causing 24-hour daylight in the "Land of the Midnight Sun" above the Arctic Circle. So, north of the equator, longer days and the more direct rays of the sun heat up the atmosphere, while to the south, it's the start of winter.
Although the solstice on Friday marks the start of astronomical summer — when the sun appears to be at its most northerly point in the sky — weather scientists consider the season to run from June 1 to Sept. 1, with the hottest weeks typically during the second half of July into early August as warm-weather systems take hold.
"Average temperatures typically reach their peak a few weeks after the solstice as there is a lag effect between when the sun is at its strongest and when the land surface reaches peak heating," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Randy Adkins explained in an online post.
He compared the lagging warmth to cooking a steak on the grill, the meat reaching its peak temperature after it's removed from the rack and "coasting" for a brief period.
In the Berkshires and the rest of the Northeast, the notorious "Bermuda high," a hot-air bubble that pumps tropical conditions into the region, provides the most uncomfortable days of the season. When, and if, the high-pressure system plants itself in the Atlantic, far off the Carolina coast, is difficult to predict more than a week in advance.
Helping to fuel the impact of the sun's heat is the stretch of longest days hereabouts, 15 hours and 18 minutes on "Summer Solstice Friday" from 5:15 a.m. to 8:33 p.m. in the Berkshires. It's the year's longest day, only by one second, and also the longest twilight.
But in western Massachusetts, the earliest sunrises began on June 9 and end on Saturday, while the latest sunsets, at 8:34, are from June 24 through June 30. As astronomers explain it, along with the tilt of the planet, a 24-hour day as we define it is about four minutes longer than "solar time," so once every four years, there's a "leap day" on Feb. 29 to correct the mismatch.
The summer solstice is literally the day the sun appears to "standstill" over the Tropic of Cancer, circling the globe 23.4 degrees north of the equator — the most northerly circle of latitude on earth where the sun can be directly overhead — before it begins retreating southward.
As noted by the Old Farmer's Almanac, cultures around the world mark the occasion with bonfires on central European hilltops, gatherings at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, the ancient, mysterious monument completed around 2800 B.C. to celebrate the solstice and in Sweden, Midsummer's Day, a holiday marked by eating the season's first strawberries.
The June full moon is also known as the Strawberry Moon, coinciding with the ripening of the berries in New England.
In northern Iceland, a very different tradition: people perch on a cliff overlooking the ocean and watch the sun dip down to the horizon, brushing the water and starting to rise again. Golfers in Iceland can play through the night.
In Alaska, there's a "midnight baseball game," starting at 10:30 p.m. and continuing until 1 or 2 in the morning. The annual tradition began in 1906.
But here in the Berkshires, along with the appearance of fireflies, the longest days of summer are marked by the arrival of tourists, the opening of seasonal concert and theater festivals, al fresco dining, families flocking to lakefront beaches and swimming pools, gearing up air conditioners if and when needed, and a desire to make the most of what always seems to be a short but intense season of fun and frolic.
Clarence Fanto can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.