Here comes the eclipse and some new facts

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About a month ago, I wrote a feature on the upcoming solar eclipse. In what is considered to be a rare event for this eclipse to be viewed across the U.S., many folks are “gearing up” and, in some cases, planning to travel thousands of miles to witness this phenomenon. The last time the U.S. saw a total solar eclipse from coast-to-coast was back on June 8, 1918, over 99 years ago.

Exactly one week from today, 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 only lunar phase we get a solar eclipse is during the new moon. When we get a lunar eclipse, that occurs during the full moon lunar phase.

I’m planning to witness this event in northern Oregon and hoping it doesn’t cloud up and rain. I understand that traffic in the regions of “totality” will be quite challenging. Many officials are predicting “gridlock” conditions this upcoming weekend.

This eclipse a week from now will last less than 3 minutes. However, solar eclipses do vary in time because the Earth is not always at the same distance from the sun and the moon’s distance from the Earth will vary by as much as 12 percent.

It’s quite amazing that at this moment in Earth’s history, the sun’s diameter is about 400 times larger than that of the moon. The sun is also approximately 400 times farther away, making it look like the moon and sun are the same size when seen from Earth. Also, the moon is pulling away from the Earth about an inch to an inch-and-a-half per year. Therefore, scientists project that we won’t get the spectacular views of solar eclipses in about 600,000 years as the moon will be farther away from our planet.

Remember, 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?” Here in the Coeur d’Alene area, we’re not in the path of totality, therefore the sun will be covered by the moon about 90 percent in our region. 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.

By the way, a lunar eclipse, which is safe to view, will occur on Jan. 31, 2018. This is the event when the Earth’s shadow covers the full moon, which often gives it a reddish glow.

In terms of our local weather, we’re finally seeing some relief from the days-on-end of hot, hazy and smoky weather across the Inland Northwest. Cliff tells me that we’ve had 30 days this summer with highs at or above 90 degrees. The average is 21 days, so it has certainly been a hot summer. Despite the hot weather, we did not hit the 100-degree mark. The hottest day was on July 6 with a high of 97 degrees. We were 96 degrees last Friday, Aug. 11.

Spokane broke its record for the most consecutive days with highs in the 90s. For the 2017 summer season, there were 16 days in a row with readings in the 90s, breaking the old record of 14 days set back in 1894. Here in Coeur d’Alene, we didn’t break that type of record as there were a few days with readings in the upper 80s.

Seattle, the city known for clouds and rain, broke the record for the longest streak without any measurable moisture. The last time Seattle reported measurable rainfall was on June 17. Seattle surpassed its old record of 51 consecutive days without at least 0.01 inches of moisture from July 7 to Aug. 26, 1951, last Tuesday evening.

Although temperatures are finally cooling down here in North Idaho, we are still much drier than normal for the summer season. Cliff and I believe there’s a chance we’ll see a pattern with increasing rainfall toward the end of the month or early September.

For the fall of 2017, it looks like it will start out warmer and drier than normal. Cliff and I expect to see the moisture increase later in October and November. However, we’re between the warmer El Nino and cooler La Nina sea-surface temperature pattern, which is referred to as “La Nada.” These situations are usually “transitional weather patterns,” and a little tricky, especially forecasting winter weather events.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.

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