Diamond ring solar eclipse

The Effect of a Solar Eclipse on Air Temperature

The recent total solar eclipse that swept across North America on April 8, 2024 gave a rare opportunity to observe how a total eclipse affects elements in nature such as wildlife behavior and changes to weather. This article takes a quick look at temperature observations on April 8th from a few locations along the path of totality.

In the U.S., the eclipse began during the midday hours over southwestern Texas and tracked northeastward to the Northeast U.S. by mid-afternoon. This is normally the time of day when air temperature rises and approaches daytime highs due to the sun’s radiation, but on April 8th, that temperature trend was interrupted.

Temperature data before and during the eclipse show temperature drops were most significant in the southern states in locations where skies were mostly clear leading up to the eclipse. One such location was Russellville, AR which experienced an impressive 12-degree drop in temperature in under 90 minutes. Initially, the drop in temperature was minimal in the partial phase of the eclipse but then dropped rapidly around the time of totality and continued to drop for a short time after. Once enough sunlight returned after totality, the temperature in Russellville began to warm back up.

Many other locations between Texas and Ohio had similar drops in temperature.  However, some areas along the path of totality did not have as much of a cool down.  The temperature drop was less than 5 degrees in the Dallas area where normal daytime heating from the sun was limited by morning cloud cover.  Similarly, in western New York, the drop in temperature was only about 4 degrees in Rochester where conditions were overcast.  Further east, over Maine where clear skies offered some of the nation’s best viewing conditions, the temperature drops were also less impressive.  Greenville and Houlton, ME only had temperature drops of about 5 degrees, which may be due in part to an existing snow pack from recent winter storms that other parts of the U.S. did not have.  

Overall, the changes in weather conditions during the April 8th total solar eclipse were similar to that experienced around sunset, which is not surprising – except that it happened during the middle of the day on April 8th.  The next total solar eclipses in the continental U.S. won’t be until 2044 and 2045. 

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