A spectacular solar eclipse is coming

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Recently, I have received many questions about the upcoming solar eclipse that is coming in less than 2 months. On the morning of Aug. 21, the moon will move directly between the sun and the Earth and pass perfectly across the continental United States starting along the Oregon coastline at 10:15 am. The last time the U.S. saw a total solar eclipse from coast-to-coast was back on June 8, 1918, more than 99 years ago.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon is between the sun and the earth, when positioned perfectly in a direct line, the moon blocks the sun and literally turns day into night for a matter of minutes. Solar eclipses are considered to be rare events and usually visible from small areas on Earth. During this event, the moon casts two shadows on our planet. What many will see in August is called the umbra, which is the darkest portion of the moon’s shadow and region of totality. The other is called penumbra, which others will see as a partial solar eclipse.

It’s almost hard to believe, but millions of people are expected to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to witness this event, which is expected to last less than 3 minutes. From start to finish, the moon’s shadow will move about 2,500 miles from the West Coast to the East Coast of the U.S. in only 94 minutes, which is about 27 miles per minute, or 1,600 miles per hour.

It’s estimated that at least 20 million people will experience the upcoming solar eclipse. Hotels have been filling up for this August date for years across the path of totality. The most-viewed solar eclipse was the one that moved across southeastern Asia in 2009 with an estimated 30 million people who viewed this event.

Speaking of viewing, one should never look at the sun or a solar eclipse. Looking directly at this event can seriously hurt or even blind your eyes. Sunglasses don’t work and proper eye protection, like eclipse glasses or a sun filter, is highly recommended. Projection also works very well to see the eclipse.

One of the big questions I have been asked is “where will be the best place to see this event?” Well, the path of totality will cross from northern Oregon, southern Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, southern Illinois, southwestern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, extreme southwestern North Carolina and across South Carolina.

Based on climatology for Aug. 21, southern Illinois and western states are likely the best places for clear skies. However, there are no guarantees and many people traveling to the regions that will have the total eclipse may be disappointed if clouds are nearby. So, if you are planning to travel to this event, make sure you check with the latest weather forecasts.

There are human records of solar eclipses dating back as far as 2,500 B.C. It’s believed that ancient civilizations used these events to establish calendars and organize their planting of crops. I did hear of one story many years ago about an astronomer who was condemned to death. He somehow knew of an upcoming solar eclipse and told his captors that he will make their world “go dark.” When the eclipse occurred, he instructed these people to let him go and he will make it light again, and his life was spared. I looked around for this story, but couldn’t find any information. However, I thought it was interesting when I heard it.

In terms of our local weather, the “new moon” cycle of June 23 through 30 did produce some showers and thunderstorms across the region. The total moisture for last month ended up at 1.21 inches. That was below the normal, for a change, figure of 1.93 inches. For 2017, Cliff has measured 25.88 inches of rain and melted snow, far about the normal for the date of about 14 inches. He and I both think that our final precipitation total for this year will end up close to 40 inches. Our seasonal normal is 26.77 inches.

So far, the summer of 2017 across the Inland Northwest has been pretty good. Temperatures were in the 70s and 80s over the last week, with a 90-degree day on June 30. We only had two 90-degree days last month with a hot spell expected this week. In fact, we could hit the 100-degree mark around the end of the week. The rest of the summer season should be quite nice, but we’ll see some afternoons with highs into the 90s, perhaps close to 100 degrees, especially toward the end of the month. August should have close to “normal” precipitation and temperatures. Moisture should start increasing later in the fall to above normal levels, especially if sea-surface temperatures don’t warm up.

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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