The latest theme issue of Philosophical Transactions A brings together a unique series of studies on the meteorological effects of the March 2015 solar eclipse.
Investigating effects of eclipse-induced weather changes, such as changes in surface air temperatures, wind and cloud amount, has a long history. Philosophical Transactions first reported the scientific use of eclipses in 1676 with a paper on measuring the speed of light, and in 1716 Edmund Halley reported his observations of a total eclipse: “I cannot find that there has been such a thing as a total eclipse of the sun seen at London. Having found that the whole shadow would fall upon England, I though it a very proper opportunity to get the dimension of the shade ascertained by observation”.
Observing and monitoring the atmospheric response to a solar eclipse isn’t new, but today so much more is possible in terms of technologies employed to record, predict and evaluate meteorological effects of eclipses.
This special issue, guest edited by Giles Harrison and Edward Hanna, presents a diverse collection of papers on the 20th March 2015 solar eclipse which cast a partial lunar shadow over the UK, including the results and evaluation of an ambitious citizen science project, how new approaches such as atmospheric modelling are improving our understanding and interpretation of solar eclipse, as well as an essay on the depictions of eclipses in art. We visited Professor Harrison at his weather base at the University of Reading to find out more.
Can you hear a ticking noise in the background? It’s the motor in the solar tracker which is tracking the sun’s position in the sky. The solar tracker is on the left of Professor Harrison in the video. To the right, the thing pointing at the sky is a laser ceilometer which measures cloud base. And the spaceship towards the far left corner is a thunderstorm tracker.
The next major eclipse over a populated area is in the USA on 21st August 2017.
Giles Harrison is Professor of Atmospheric Physics at the University of Reading.
Edward Hanna is Professor of Climate Change at the University of Sheffield.