Central New York gets a rare total solar eclipse—in 3 years

Weather

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR) — On April 8, 2024, a rare astronomical treat will occur in parts of Central New York: a total solar eclipse.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth and the moon’s shadow crosses the earth’s surface. There are actually two shadows created during an eclipse by the moon.  One is called the Penumbra, which causes viewers to only see a partial solar eclipse.

It is a much narrower shadow called the umbra that creates the total solar eclipse. Most people that really want to see this magical sight of a total solar eclipse usually have to travel great distances from their home and spend lots of money, but this time around, it will be right in our backyard!

The path of totality in 2024 starts south of the border before crossing into Texas and spreading northeast.

After 3 p.m., it moves over Cleveland, then Buffalo, then the south shore of Lake Ontario before heading into the Adirondacks. The city of Syracuse is in totality for only a minute and a half between 3:22 p.m. and 3:24 p.m. The view lasts longer the farther north you go with both Oswego and Watertown ending up in totality for more than 3 minutes!

While very close to a total eclipse, places like Ithaca and Cortland will only have the disk of the sun 99% covered by the moon’s shadow.  It may not seem like a big difference, but in the world of eclipses, it will be a huge difference in what can be viewed. In totality, you can see features of the sun such as solar prominences and perhaps even solar flares and for the brief period the moon covers the sun, you can look toward the eclipse with the naked eye. During the rest of the solar eclipse, you will need special glasses or equipment to safely view the sun.

The last solar eclipse in the U.S. occurred in August 2017, but it was not a total eclipse in Central New York.

Obviously, we can’t tell you now what the weather will be like three years from today, but we can get some idea what the climatological odds are by looking back at past April 8s.  The theme over the last 20 years on April 8 is for cloudy weather. Looking at 20 years of data for April 8, fourteen years have been cloudy at 3 p.m. in the afternoon. Even if we end up cloudy for the eclipse, we will still see one effect, the sky becoming pitch black in the middle of the afternoon.

Temperature-wise, the “normal” high is 54 but we know all too well early spring can be quite volatile and that shows up in the 3 p.m. temperatures for April 8. In the last two decades, the temperatures varied, ranging from the 30s through the 80s on April 8.

Even though average high temperatures are in the 50s, it was more common to have midafternoon temperatures in the 30s on April 8. Let’s just hope that in three years from today, we will get a nice clear day with temperatures in the 50s.

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