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The Total Solar Eclipse of 2017: Meteorological Observations from a Statewide Mesonet and Atmospheric Profiling Systems

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  • 1 Kentucky Climate Center, and Department of Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky
  • | 2 Kentucky Climate Center, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky
  • | 3 Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama
  • | 4 Kentucky Climate Center, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky
  • | 5 Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama
  • | 6 Department of Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky
  • | 7 Kentucky Climate Center, and Department of Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green
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Abstract

A total solar eclipse traversed the continental United States on 21 August 2017. It 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 3 s and then calculates and records observations every 5 min. 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 demonstrate 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.

CURRENT AFFILIATIONS: Mahmood—High Plains Regional Climate Center, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska; Griffin—South Carolina State Climatology Office, Department of Natural Resources, Land, Water, and Conservation Division, Columbia, South Carolina

Supplemental material: https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-19-0051.2

© 2020 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Rezaul Mahmood, rmahmood2@unl.edu

Abstract

A total solar eclipse traversed the continental United States on 21 August 2017. It 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 3 s and then calculates and records observations every 5 min. 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 demonstrate 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.

CURRENT AFFILIATIONS: Mahmood—High Plains Regional Climate Center, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska; Griffin—South Carolina State Climatology Office, Department of Natural Resources, Land, Water, and Conservation Division, Columbia, South Carolina

Supplemental material: https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-19-0051.2

© 2020 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Rezaul Mahmood, rmahmood2@unl.edu

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