Weather or not? What will the weather be like on total solar eclipse day?


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Too bad you can’t buy insurance for the total solar eclipse.

By all accounts eclipse day, Monday, Aug. 21, is set to be one of the biggest travel days of the decade. Like the Wednesday before Thanksgiving gone wild, as millions of people make their way across the country to the exclusive “zone of totality.”

This is the 67-mile-wide ban across 14 states from Oregon to South Carolina where the moon will line up perfectly between the Earth and the sun, completely darkening skies. In six Western North Carolina counties, the eclipse will start at about 2:30 p.m.

But what if it’s cloudy, what if it rains? It could be a hard-fought vacation gone very wrong.

The problem is nobody knows more than a few days out what in the world the weather will be like Aug. 21, said David Still, a meteorologist with RaysWeather.com, based in Boone.

“Seven-nine days out we’ll be able to identify the prospect of rain. But right now, we don’t know,” Still said. “Obviously if the eclipse happened today (Monday) we’d be toast.”

As of Aug. 7, the Weather Channel has an online forecast showing Aug. 21 with a high of 81 degrees, a low of 61 and a 60-percent chance of rain.

However, said Doug Outlaw, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Greenville, S.C., weather forecasts could change substantially in that time period.

Those who watch the weather can still make some guesses, which is all they will be just under two weeks before eclipse day.

More: Solar Eclipse Countdown: How to get crash course in astronomy

More: Solar eclipse countdown: How busy will Pisgah and Nantahala national forests be?

“Typically in that time period (late August) we’re still in a summertime pattern – cumulous clouds will tend to increase in early afternoon. They build up vertically and become towering cumulous clouds and become rain showers and storms,” Outlaw said.

“If we have drier air on that particular day, we’ll have a moist atmosphere and it will be very bad for viewing the eclipse.”

He said last year’s weather doesn’t have any bearing, but in case you’re interested, on Aug. 21, 2016, the high in the Asheville area was 86 degrees, the low was 69. There was a trace of rain that day, but no thunder.

Almost every day in August leading up to Aug. 21, 2016, there was measureable rain or a trace of rain. On Aug. 21 there was just a trace, then no rain on Aug. 22, 23 and 24.

“That’s a good sign a front might have come through to dry up the atmosphere,” Outlaw said. “If a weak front were to come through Aug. 20 and dry out the atmosphere that would be a good thing.”

One factor has always been working against perfect solar eclipse day weather for Transylvania County, where towns like Brevard, Sapphire and Rosman are in the path of totality. The county is technically a rain forest.

“Transylvania County is the wettest area climatologically east of the Mississippi,” Outlaw said. “The area near Lake Toxaway gets 90 inches of rain a year. The ridge line along the Transylvania-Buncombe border near Mount Pisgah tends to be wet, while the north side is much drier. The average around Asheville is 40 inches a year.”

Asheville might be less predisposed to rain, but it also lies outside the zone of totality.

The best WNC can do is to sit still, hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and not do a rain dance.

“Hopefully it will be a nice clear day on Aug. 21 when the sun is blocked by the moon and we can see it rather than clouds,” Outlaw said.

See more solar eclipse news at http://avlne.ws/2vJn6iw.

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7 August 2017 7:52 pm
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