Why Do The Seasons Lag Behind The Calendar?

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By By Steve Pool

SEATTLE - Statistically, Seattle is at its warmest in late July and its coldest in late January. But the first day of summer is in late June and winter starts in December, so why the lag time?

Just like a pot of water doesn't boil the instant you turn on the heat, the atmosphere takes some time to warm up or cool down, as the case may be. Even though we get the most daylight in late June, it takes about 30 days for the atmosphere to transfer that maximum warmth to the surface. The same, but opposite effect works in winter.

The oceans and lakes take even longer to respond to heating and cooling. They typically take until late September to be at their warmest, and late March to be at their coldest.

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Evening rainbow from Queen Anne using fisheye lens, 17 April 2014
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A large rainbow formed over the ferry Wenatchee while headed from Bainbridge Island to Seattle.