Solar eclipse and the weather

19th March, 2015

Like many of you, we are all eagerly looking forward to the solar eclipse on Friday. As a company that always has one eye on the goings on above our heads, it promises to be one of the most fascinating days for many years. In addition to the eclipse we will also see the coming together of two other celestial phenomenon - the spring equinox and a supermoon.

The last significant eclipse of the sun in the UK was on 11th August 1999, when people in Cornwall experienced a “total” eclipse of the sun. This week's event will range from 85% coverage of the sun in southern England, to 98% in the far north of Scotland. We will not see another total eclipse of the sun in the UK until September 2090.

Solar Eclipse Superstitions

  • People living in Vietnam used to believe that a giant frog was devouring the sun, while in ancient China it was believed to be a hungry celestial dragon.
  • The ancient Greeks believed that a solar eclipse was a sign that the gods were angry and that disasters and destruction would follow.
  • In some parts of India, some people to this day continue to fast during a solar eclipse for fear that any food cooked during the event will be poisoned.

The Impact of an Eclipse on our Weather

Meteorologists have known for some time that areas falling under the shadow of a solar eclipse will experience a fall in temperatures - often as much as 3°C (5°F). Experts hope that Friday's eclipse will provide further insight into the effects an eclipse has on local weather patterns, including the so-called ‘eclipse wind’.

“This story goes back to 1901, when a guy named H. Helm Clayton thought he saw a change in wind direction on account of the eclipse” said Giles Harrison, an Atmospheric Physicist at the University of Reading. Clayton would later publish a paper describing what he called an ‘eclipse cyclone’, or a ‘cyclone of winds around the moons shadow’, and Harrison goes on to say that “there are several accounts of an ‘eclipse wind’, a change in the breeze as the eclipse reaches its greatest extent, but we've never had enough data to definitively prove or disprove its existence before.”

To help prove the theory, the University of Reading is leading a national experiment and want to recruit an army of citizen scientists to record changes in weather conditions on Friday morning. All of the observations will be combined with other data to help scientists gain important insights into how our atmosphere and weather work - something which will help to create ever more accurate forecasts. We rely heavily on accurate forecast data to ensure that our clients receive an efficient service, so any research which refines the accuracy of this data can only help us to continue offering a high standard of service to our clients.

If you are planning to head outside to view the eclipse, please be sure to follow safety advice and avoid looking directly at the sun.

Solar eclipse

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