Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



Bulletin of the AMERICAN METEOROLOGICAL SOCIETY, May 2020, pp 379-383


Copyright © 2020 AMERICAN METEOROLOGICAL SOCIETY. Used by permission.


On 21 August 2017, a total solar eclipse traversed the continental United States, the first to do so in 99 years, providing a rare opportunity to observe the atmospheric response from a variety of platforms. It reached the point of greatest eclipse over western Kentucky, allowing the Kentucky Mesonet, operated by Western Kentucky University, to collect high-quality meteorological measurements with a high spatiotemporal density. This information was supplemented by a mesoscale network of three atmospheric profiling systems, operated by University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), along the path of totality near Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The Bermuda high had settled into the southeastern United States. The skies were mostly clear with only widely scattered cumulus clouds, and the winds were weak along the path of totality across the state. Over Kentucky and the surrounding region, the air was generally relatively dry (dewpoint depression much greater than 5°C). A stationary front was located over the upper Midwest and the northern Great Plains. With these ideal environmental conditions, the Kentucky Mesonet collected a wealth of data on the day of the eclipse. We focused on the observed meso- and regional-scale response of the atmosphere, augmented by atmospheric modeling. It is the first time a mesoscale observation platform assessed solar radiation during a total eclipse in the United States.

This was an unprecedented opportunity to document atmospheric response to a historic solar eclipse at the meso- and regional scales. Observations and modeling supported our conceptual understanding of potential atmospheric response due to the absence of solar radiation during the height of a summer season day. Finally, this research is complementary to local- or continental-scale studies on the same topic and offered additional insight on the atmospheric response to total solar eclipse for these scales.