High Plains Regional Climate Center
The Total Solar Eclipse of 2017: Meteorological Observations from a Statewide Mesonet and Atmospheric Profiling Systems
Date of this Version
Accepted for publication in Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
A total solar eclipse traversed 37 the continental United States on August 21, 2017. It 38 was the first such event in 99 years and provided a rare opportunity to observe the atmospheric response from a variety of instrumented observational platforms. This paper discusses the high quality observations collected by the Kentucky Mesonet (www.kymesonet.org), a research-grade meteorological and climatological observation network consisting of 72 stations and measuring air temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, solar radiation, wind speed, and wind direction. The network samples the atmosphere, for most variables, every three seconds and then calculates and records observations every five minutes. During the total solar eclipse, these observations were complemented by observations collected from three atmospheric profiling systems positioned in the path of the eclipse and operated by the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). Observational data demonstrates that solar radiation at the surface dropped from > 800 to 0 W m-2, the air temperature decreased by about 4.5 °C and, most interestingly, a land breeze/sea breeze-type wind developed. In addition, due to the high density of observations, the network recorded a detailed representation of the spatial variation of surface meteorology. The UAH profiling system captured collapse and reformation of the planetary boundary layer and related changes during the total solar eclipse.
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