As the main author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson is regarded as one of this country’s Founding Fathers. He was also an astute and systematic weather observer.
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, 1805. Credit: NYHS
In the summer of 1776, Jefferson was in Philadelphia, PA attending the Second Continental Congress, which adopted the Declaration of Independence. While there, he purchased a thermometer and a barometer – new and expensive weather equipment at that time. On July 4, Jefferson noted that the weather conditions in Philadelphia were cloudy with a high temperature of 76°F.
For the next 50 years, he kept a meticulous weather journal. He recorded daily temperature data wherever he was – at home in Virginia or while traveling.
In an effort to understand the bigger picture of climate in America, Jefferson established a small network of fellow observers around Virginia as well as contacts in a few other states. According to records at Monticello, his estate in Virginia, he hoped to establish a national network for weather observations. While this plan did not come to fruition during his lifetime, today’s National Weather Service considers him the “father of weather observers.”
Happy Independence Day!
An excerpt from Thomas Jefferson’s Weather Journal, July 1776. Credit: NCDC
The Earth will reach its farthest point from the Sun today – an event known as the aphelion. It will officially take place at 22:10 UTC, which is 6:10 PM Eastern Daylight Time.
This annual event is a result of the elliptical shape of the Earth’s orbit and the slightly off-centered position of the Sun inside that path. The exact date of the Aphelion differs from year to year, but it’s usually in early July – summer in the northern hemisphere.
While the planet’s distance from the Sun is not responsible for the seasons, it does influence their length. As a function of gravity, the closer the planet is to the Sun, the faster it moves. Today, Earth is about 152 million kilometers (94 million miles) away from the Sun. That is approximately 5 million kilometers (3 million miles) further than during the perihelion in early January. That means the planet will move more slowly along its orbital path than at any other time of the year. As a result, summer is elongated by a few days in the northern hemisphere.
The word, aphelion, is Greek for “away from the sun”.
Earth’s Perihelion and Aphelion. Credit: Time and Date.com