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Great American Eclipse Data May Fine-Tune Weather Forecasts


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  • Location: Camborne
  • Location: Camborne

Measurements taken by an automated national meteorological monitoring network during the 2017 total solar eclipse illuminate how the land and atmosphere respond to a sudden loss of sunlight.

A year ago, the skies across the United States darkened as the Moon passed in front of the Sun. The 21 August 2017 celestial event dubbed the Great American Eclipse was the first total solar eclipse since 1918 to traverse the full width of the continental United States.

As millions of onlookers witnessed the extraordinary midday darkness and stillness brought on by the Moon’s shadow, a national meteorological observing network was doing what it always does. At 114 automated stations across all 50 U.S. states, the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN) was taking accurate and precise readings every 5 minutes of surface temperature, air temperature, humidity, and other environmental conditions [Diamond et al., 2013].

Although taking those readings was just routine work for the network, our team foresaw that the coincidence of the USCRN’s ordinary data gathering with this remarkable eclipse could yield something extremely useful. That’s because many phenomena, from the daily setting of the Sun to fleeting events, such as dust storms and passing clouds, suddenly disconnect some piece of the land-atmosphere system from its main energy source, the Sun.


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