The Washington Post
Friday marked a summer milepost
Our heat wave simmered its scorching way into a fifth consecutive day on Friday, to the surprise of few who knew of the forecasts, the month, the season and the city.
For all its virtues, Washington also has its heat waves, and records show this is the hottest period in the hottest month of summer, in a city that boasts of its reputation for heat.
Friday’s high temperature came in at an official 95 degrees, our fifth straight day of 90 or above. It was just as hot as Thursday, a day that may have warned us that summer, after providing many a pleasant afternoon here was again up to its old tricks.
Each day, even in a heat wave, has its own, distinctive characteristics. Friday, by its mere position on the calendar, may have been particularly distinctive.
For few days may have better suggested the bittersweet nature of summer than did Friday. It seemed a fit symbol of the perennial tension of the season.
On the one hand, summer offers luxuriantly long hours of bright daylight, seemingly ours to enjoy without a care or great concern.
On the other hand, summer can flaunt its torments during those long hours, with a punishing severity that sometimes makes us wish the season gone.
Friday, July 22, was one month and a day after the summer solstice, often seen as the official start of summer.
By Friday we had voyaged about one-third of the way from the June 21 summer solstice to the Sept. 22 autumn equinox.
Our longest days fall around the solstice. Our July days are still long. But they have shortened by 26 minutes, reduced at either end enough for us to notice.
Significantly, for the first time in many days, Friday’s sunrise, according to the Time and Date website, occurred as late as 6 a.m. On Friday it occurred exactly at 6.
Moreover, according to the same site, only three days ago, for the first time in weeks, did the sun begin to set here before 8:30 p.m. It set Friday at 8:28.
Thus, for all of Friday’s heat, for all this season’s sometime stickiness, summer is showing subtle signs that its lease, as the poet once had it, may not be endless.
Yet, in the here and now, each day may ask to be considered not as a sign of a trend, but on its own. Thus we note that although both Thursday and Friday shared a 95-degree high, Friday may actually have been less harsh.
On Thursday, the heat stayed on all day, as the mercury never slipped below 79 degrees.
That is particularly unpleasant for anyone hoping that darkness might offer respite from the worst assaults of summer daylight.
On Friday, however, the morning low was a little lower, and the afternoon humidity seemed less likely to cause us to throw in the towel, or to be constantly using one to sop up sweat.
It is possible, however, that such distinctions as between Thursday and Friday will seem relatively meaningless on Saturday and Sunday.
Forecasts call for the swelter to be dialed up a notch, perhaps even as high as the three-digit mark before the weekend ends.