Cloudy forecast increases anxiety for solar eclipse watchers | Trending Viral hub

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When Adam Epstein looked at the forecast for Dallas on April 8 a few days ago, he felt sick to his stomach. Clouds!

The New York real estate developer had been so amazed and dazzled by the total solar eclipse 2017, which he witnessed in perfect condition in the Oregon desert, and told his friends they had to see the next one. They believed him. Epstein organized an expedition to see “totality” this yearand at last count he had 82 people in his group.

He studied climate maps and chose Dallas as his destination, because historically it had been excellent chances of clear skies in early April.

“Sometimes the weather gods like to laugh at you,” said Epstein, 58, whose mood this week has tended to improve thanks to modest improvements in Dallas’ still-dodgy forecast since Monday.

On a national level, the eclipse forecast is quite cloudy – like unclear, blurry, murky, but also literally full of nasty clouds that could obscure this great show.

A total eclipse is astronomically predictable and meteorologically fickle. Experts know exactly when the moon will completely cover the sun. They can’t predict whether humans on the ground will be able to see it happen.

And although the moon takes almost three hours to eclipse the sun, the exquisitely strange period of totality — when the sun is completely obscured except for its fascinating atmosphere, and bright stars and planets appear in the darkened sky — lasts only a few minutes. People in the contiguous United States won’t have another chance to see something like this for another 20 years.

With the April eclipse less than a week away, it looks like New England has the best chance for perfect weather. Mexico is also doing well. But these are anxious times for eclipse buffs in the middle 2,000 miles.

“I’m going to keep my fingers crossed,” said astrophysicist Adam Frank of the University of Rochester, noting that his city in upstate New York experiences lake-effect weather and is often cloudy in spring. He will stay in Rochester no matter what, because he is committed to giving televised comments on the eclipse.

“I have high hopes and low expectations,” he said.

The complicated job of predicting clouds

Cloud forecasts are riddled with ambiguities, uncertainties and difficult-to-understand probabilities. It’s fair to ask: What exactly does “cloudy” mean?

Clouds form when air rises and there is enough moisture in the air. Lower pressure, which allows air to rise more easily, often creates clouds. Higher pressure, which prevents air from rising, tends to promote sunnier skies.

Some weather systems create large areas of rising moist air, resulting in large areas of solid cloud cover. Other systems only generate pockets of rising air here and there, with some pockets wet enough to form clouds and others not. These clouds (both their location and timing) are much more difficult to predict, especially more than a day or two in advance.

What people really want to know is whether there will be clouds at their exact location during the exact minutes and hours of Monday’s eclipse. However, models can’t predict clouds with that kind of accuracy that far in advance. Instead, they forecast the percentage of the sky that may be covered by clouds in three-hour intervals.

With that in mind, eclipse attendees on the path of totality We should probably be concerned about any forecast of more than 60 percent cloud cover, and cautiously optimistic about any forecast of less than 30 percent. In the middle, the situation is quite confusing.

The type of clouds also matters. High clouds are made of ice crystals, while lower clouds are made of water droplets. High, thin clouds won’t completely obscure the eclipse, but low, dense, dark clouds that block out the sun could ruin the show.

Adding to the anxiety, spring is a particularly difficult time of year to predict cloud cover.

For one thing, the lingering cold of winter can generate cool, moist air that creates clouds at night, while the sun and daytime heat are not yet strong enough to dissipate clouds as quickly as forecast models can anticipate. . And the jet stream tends to move weather systems more slowly in spring than in winter. That may also cause cloud cover to clear more slowly than expected.

Another variable is the direct effect of the eclipse. Air temperature drops dramatically as the sun darkens and stops heating the ground, causing the air to stop rising. One potential effect, noted by many eclipse watchers, is the creation of an “eclipse hole” in the cloud layer.

However, this does not happen with all cloud types. Low-level cumulus clouds, those alluring, puffy cotton balls, are more likely to dissipate during an eclipse, according to a paper published earlier this year in the journal Communications Earth & Environment.

Where is the forecast for Monday?

Currently, the models agree pretty well for April 8, showing lower pressure and a cold front from Texas to Arkansas, and then higher pressure heading northeast. So this is very encouraging for New York, Vermont and Maine, and less encouraging for Texas and Arkansas.

However, there are two caveats. First, we are five days away. In that range, things can still change, no matter how confident the forecasts may seem now. Thursday or Friday is when people should start taking the cloud forecast more seriously. That said, cloud forecasts can sometimes be challenging even on the same day.

Second, just because the models may be right about the overall climate pattern doesn’t mean they are right on time. In this range, models could still be off for 12 to 24 hours in either direction. If that’s the case, then it’s not impossible for the cloud forecast to change significantly for better or worse, depending on location.

Epstein, the real estate developer, said his friends have assured him they will have a good time even if the skies over Dallas don’t cooperate. Still, when the forecast was particularly gloomy eight days before the eclipse, he felt terrible.

“I know I’m not responsible for the weather, but still a lot of people had relied on the concept that this was going to be a great event,” he said. “To think it was all for nothing was quite upsetting.”

At the Dallas Arboretum, the the eclipse will be celebrated with three days of events and organizers 10,000 people are also expected. as NASA scientists and national media outlets, on Monday. But the arboretum’s vice president of marketing, Terry Lendecker, said Tuesday that she is not concerned about the climate.

“They are predicting a 30 percent chance of rain. In Texas, that doesn’t really mean anything. It changes very quickly all the time,” Lendecker said. “While we watch the weather, primarily for safety reasons for our guests, the show has to go on when it’s an outdoor venue.”

And, he added, “it will be a beautiful day in the garden anyway.”

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