Clouds may block the April 2024 solar eclipse: A forecast guide

Clouds may block the April 2024 solar eclipse: A forecast guide
Clouds may block the April 2024 solar eclipse: A forecast guide

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Clouds are only part of the weather, and it’s likely that some of the millions of people in the path of April’s total eclipse will have to endure cloudy skies that will affect the experience.

But determining how clouds will change your view depends on the types of clouds—and which expert you ask. Some advise watchers not to worry about the sky, others say cloudy skies can spoil the experience.

The moon’s shadow will plunge anyone in its path into darkness, whether there are clouds in the sky or not, and writer and eclipse chaser Jamie Carter at WhenistheNextEclipse.com advises anyone who has never seen an eclipse before not to be scared of the clouds .

However, Dave Clark of NationalEclipse.com says that clouds can put you off because they block your view of the moon crossing in front of the sun — the «main event.»

«The Right Kind of Clouds»

Before last year’s annular solar eclipse, National Weather Service meteorologist Tim Daldrup told Oregon Public Radio that if there are clouds in the forecast, you should hope for «the right kind of clouds.»

«If we want to see it, we’re going to want the upper-level clouds,» Daldrup told OPR. “These are usually the more feathery cirrus clouds that can still be seen through. They may block the eclipse, but you can still see it.

The cirrus clouds would contrast with some of the less eclipse-friendly clouds, such as a thick deck of stratus lower levels or cumulus clouds, which would likely block the sun completely.

Savvy eclipse chasers will keep an eye on local forecast discussions from the National Weather Service, which often mention predicted and current cloud types.

How different types of clouds will affect the view of the eclipse

Eclipse chaser David Makepeace told USA TODAY that during a cloud eclipse, the clouds will darken: «For those few moments, it’s going to feel dark and stormy.»

«But it’s still a phenomenon,» he said. Here are a few scenarios that could play out:

  • Dense, low clouds (stratus): A thick layer of these boring, featureless clouds can be the ultimate eclipse suppressant. The sky will darken briefly during totality, then brighten shortly after.
  • Foggy, high clouds: (cirrus): Decent eclipse viewing with totality still visible. «Their semi-opaque nature should allow the eclipse to be seen, albeit more or less hazy,» noted meteorologist Jay Anderson at Eclipseophile.com.
  • Scattered fluffy clouds (cumulus): It is very difficult to predict whether you will see the eclipse if the sky is full of these clouds. Their moody nature will make for an unnerving eclipse day.

My partly cloudy eclipse experience

I was lucky enough to be in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, for the August 2017 total solar eclipse, where the clouds played peek-a-boo with the sun before and during the eclipse.

Despite a thunderstorm rumbling nearby, the clouds parted just in time to not completely ruin the view of the total solar eclipse on this hot summer day.

As the total eclipse progressed, the clouds thinned enough to see the total eclipse, although the solar corona — the sun’s thin outer atmosphere visible only during a total eclipse — was difficult to see.

More ▼: The clouds part just in time for the total solar eclipse in Charleston, South Carolina

Map: Forecast cloud cover during solar eclipse

Want to avoid the clouds during the eclipse? Check out this map below: Select a location on the map to see eclipse times, peak solar coverage, and likely cloud cover levels during the eclipse based on past weather. Lighter points indicate a better chance of clear skies. Don’t see a map? Press here.

Map of the total solar eclipse

Using the map above, find your location to see when the eclipse starts and ends and how much of the sun will be covered at its peak. Dark red dots along the path of totality represent areas that will experience a total solar eclipse, and all other orange areas will see the moon partially cover the sun. Don’t see a map? Press here.

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