Collaborative Effort to Account for the Impact of the August 21st Solar Eclipse on Operational Forecasts in the Mid Atlantic and Southeast

Map of the percentage of sun obscuration during the eclipse shown in AWIPS.

Map of the percentage of sun obscuration during the eclipse shown in AWIPS.

Meteorologists recognize that solar eclipses in the past have had a notable impact on the sensible weather in the regions in which they occur. These impacts can include a decrease in surface temperature, reduction and changes to surface winds, lowering of surface pressure, changes in cloud cover and more. National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic have been working collaboratively to account for some of these impacts on official NWS forecasts during the eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017.

eclipse temp training

Image highlighting the some details of the Eclipse Temperature smartTool and Procedure for GFE.

Surprisingly, most operational numerical weather prediction (NWP) systems do not account for the changes in incoming solar radiation from the sun during an eclipse and the resultant changes in the weather. This is an issue as NWS forecasters provide forecasts of temperature, winds, and other fields at hourly time steps and the eclipse impacts need to be captured by forecaster intervention over model guidance. The effort to provide details on the eclipse impact on weather in our region began with the development of hourly temperature reductions based on past eclipse events and factoring local climatology proposed by Frank Alsheimer at WFO CAE. Additional WFOs in the CIMMSE area collaborated and provided input on reductions while working within the temporal confines of the National Digital Forecast Database. Joshua Weiss at WFO ILM, examined data from the 1970 and 1984 eclipses in the Southeast and created a GFE smartTool and Procedure to provide a more scientifically sound and consistent process to edit the hourly temperature forecasts.

meteograms

Official hourly forecasts of temperature and sky cover from three locations in adjacent WFOs CAE, ILM, and RAH. The temperatures were adjusted using the Eclipse Temperature GFE procedure. Columbia, SC is in the eclipse totality while Lumberton, NC and Wadesboro, NC reach 97% obscuration. Differing temperature reductions during and after the eclipse are influenced by various factors including differing amounts of cloud cover.

The GFE Procedure incorporates the forecast temperature and diurnal range without the eclipse impact, whether a location is in the total or partial eclipse, and the amount of cloud cover. Nearly a half dozen WFOs in the Southeast will be using this tool which should lead to a more consistent, more scientifically sound, and accurate forecast. In addition, shapefiles of eclipse information were developed for use in some applications, GIS maps detailing eclipse obscuration percentages were installed in AWIPS, and finally methodologies and strategies were shared via a Google document. This effort builds on the history and relationships built across the CIMMSE domain. The event is a great example of many NWS meteorologists and WFOs working together to provide enhanced forecasts and service.

hrrx.example

Screen shot of the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRRx) experimental real-time weather forecast web page the eclipse.

It is also worth noting that some experimental and non-operational NWP systems will account for the eclipse. NOAA/ESRL/GSD made changes to the 3km experimental HRRR (HRRRx) to include code to account for the sun-obscuration from the eclipse (details… https://esrl.noaa.gov/gsd/learn/hotitems/2017/eclipse2017-hrrr.html). For real-time HRRRx experimental forecasts, including the effects of the eclipse starting Saturday night looking ahead 48 hours with the 00 UTC model run, visit https://eclipse2017.noaa.gov. Some of the selected weather fields available include downward solar radiation, cloud fields and 2-meter temperature, for the HRRRx (with eclipse effect), the operational HRRR-NCEP (without eclipse effects and some other differences) and HRRRx – HRRR-NCEP difference fields.

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