The ‘Great American Eclipse’ of August 21st not only brought a total eclipse of the sun to our area, but some notable weather to parts of the area as well. Unfortunately, widespread thick cloudiness blocked the view of the 99 percent partial eclipse in Lawrence and most people saw little or nothing of the spectacle – except, of course, the midday darkness and the erie site of the street lights coming on. The same held true in Topeka, St Joseph and much of Kansas City. Yours truly and company lucked out, as skies over southeast Nebraska cleared just enough (and just in time!) to view all 2 minutes and 38 seconds of totality and all except very early parts of the partial eclipse.
The local path of the eclipse with the umbra (area of totality) shown in three-minute intervals. The dashed line depicts our route from Lawrence to our eclipse viewing site. Note the very rapid movement of the umbra. In our area, it only took 9 minutes for the umbra to move from being centered near Grand Island, Nebraska, at 1:00 PM to over I-35 just east of Plattsburg, Missouri (including north Kansas City), at 1:09 PM. This translates to a ground speed across our neighborhood of greater than 1,500 MPH.
The following series of snapshots, satellite images and radar displays below tell the story of the Great American Eclipse along the path of totality in the Lawrence region.
Looking east from our front door in Lawrence near Clinton Parkway and Inverness at 8:00 AM, or about 5 hours before totality at our eclipse site. There is a thin cirrus overcast (cirrostratus) with scattered alto-cumulous to the east. A faint halo can be seen, caused by tiny ice crystals refracting and reflecting sunlight within the cirrostratus layer. The sun is ‘eclipsed’ by the tree in the center of the photo.
At the same time, looking northwest: Turret-like mid-level build-ups indicate that elevated convection is already developing to the northwest thru northeast of Lawrence. This does not bode well, as this kind of cloud can rapidly develop into showers and expand in ariel coverage.
8:00 AM NWS Topeka Radar: A decaying blob of rain north of Wichita moves slowly northeastward, bringing increasing mid and high cloudiness to the entire region. At the same time, new mid-level convective echoes (small rain showers) are seen near Topeka and south of the KC area. The ‘X’ marks our eclipse viewing site near Table Rock, Nebraska.
9:00 AM – We leave Lawrence and head up toward the eclipse site. Mid-level convection continues and numerous showers develop in the area.
10 AM: We hit the shower north of Topeka as we travel west on Highway 24 north of the capital city. The shower is moderate to heavy, but brief.
11:00 AM: We are now traveling north on Highway 63 just south of the Nebraska line and hitting more rain showers (in far northern Kansas below the arrow). Apparent rain at our eclipse site (arrow) as well. There is otherwise a thick overcast and I predict a one percent chance of seeing the eclipse.
Noon: We have arrived at the eclipse site, and miraculously, the skies clear somewhat and the partial eclipse, having started at 11:38 AM, comes into view! We are seeing the eclipse!
12:30 PM: From our eclipse site, looking east past the access road and at a flock of birds in the distant snags – and the breaking up low clouds!
12:31 PM: 53 minutes past the start of the partial and 32 minutes before the start of the total eclipse. The sunlight is still bright, even though more than half of the sun is covered up by the moon. Seen in the photo is my spouse, Mechele, (right) and our neighbor, Janice, looking through special 10X power solar-viewing binoculars that I purchased for the event.
12:45 PM Infrared Image, 18 minutes before totality shows the extensive cloudiness across southeast Nebraska and northeast Kansas. This type of image shows cloud tops by their temperature in the infrared spectrum. Blue shows colder (higher) cloud tops with yellow showing less cold (and less high) cloud tops and orange the warmest (lowest) cloud tops. Straight red indicates the ground (no clouds to speak of). The numbers on the scale correlate these colors to degrees Centigrade. The colors themselves do not correlate to the thickness of the clouds. However patterns give clues to this, and the dark blue blob over northeast Missouri reflects an area of rain and thunderstorms.
12:45 PM Visual Image: The center of the eclipse is at this time near the northwest corner of this image, just south of the town of Douglas, Wyoming. The area of totality has not even entered Nebraska, but rather, still lies entirely within east-central Wyoming. Many of the clouds northwest of us are not visible due to the partial moon shadow.
12:49 PM – 14 minutes to totality at our eclipse site in southeast Nebraska.. A mix of clouds but they actually make for a nice view of the partial eclipse phase. This was taken with no filter on my pocket Nikon camera.
1:02 PM – One minute before totality! I remark that we should see the shadow approaching from the west-northwest at about 1,500 MPH. So everyone is looking for it! The east side of totality at this time is just west of Beatrice, Nebraska. This view looks southwest. My automatic pocket camera was over compensating for the darkness. But you can’t see a darkness in a picture!
Radar image during totality at our eclipse site (‘X’). The light rain shower to the west of BIE (Beatrice, NE) was strangely backlit during the eclipse (image below). Lawrence, Topeka and St Joseph had little or no viewing of the eclipse due to thick clouds and nearby showers.
1:03 PM – About 30 seconds until Totality: Looking west-northwest toward the approaching shadow. The sky takes on a very erie quality as the shadow approaches. Rain showers to the distant west-northwest are strangely backlit – a very memorable sight. The radar image above revealed the shower to be a short distance west of Beatrice – squarely in the zone of totality at this moment! At this moment, I estimate that the eclipse is centered about 15 miles northwest of Beatrice with the edge of totality about 12 miles west-northwest of our viewing location. The edge of the shadow was not clearly seen as it came over our site, perhaps due to the rather dense patch of cirrus that the shadow traveled through at our viewing location. Yet, we nevertheless seemed to rather clearly witness all of totality through these high-level clouds.
1:05 PM – Totality! Here I estimate we are just past the midway point of the 2 minutes and 38 seconds of totality, or near the center of the umbra (total eclipse zone). The image, facing westward, was computer manipulated in order to reveal the foreground more clearly. The light rain shower in the background, so prominent when it was backlit while in the umbra, is now lit slightly by the sun and is much less prominent than when backlit in totality. Now we are in the middle of totality! Notice, too, that the scattered low clouds are now dark as they are also in totality, versus being lit up by the small amount of partial sun in the previous image.
1:05 PM – Gazing at totality – for the most part. During totality, the south wind suddenly increased, if briefly, yet in a sustained manner for 15 -30 seconds, then died down again just as suddenly. That was very noticeable and odd, as the wind otherwise never behaved in such a fashion during our stay at the eclipse site.
IR image at 1:15 PM, 9 minutes past mid-totality.
1:15 PM Visual image – At this time the eclipse shadow is centered over east-central Missouri, about 20 miles east-northeast of Jefferson City on the Missouri River at Mokane. They got a good view there, but northern Missouri fared much less well.
1:45 PM – 40 minutes past maximum eclipse at our site. First hint of a new strong storm forming near Leavenworth, Kansas (dark blue spot).
1:45 PM Visual Image.
2 PM – Showers have dissipated in our area but new strong storms are developing from Lawrence to KC, KS and the northland of the KC Metro.
2:15 PM – Strong storms blow up over the Northland of KC. Some back-building is occurring toward the Lawrence and Topeka areas.
3 PM – Heavy thunderstorms cause flash-flood causing rains across the northland of Kansas City.
2:45 PM – Impressive storms over northern Missouri with outflow boundary clouds connecting the two areas of storms, with some back-building of clouds toward Lawrence and Topeka.
4:00 PM – Northern half of KC,KS getting hit as storms back-build.
3:45 PM, closely correlating with above radar image.
5 PM – Storms exit stage right across Missouri.
6 PM – New storms start to fire over northeast Kansas – a prelude to the big event to come overnight.
7 PM – Strong storms slowly develop over eastern Kansas.
Topeka Radar Precipitation Estimate up to 6:30 PM on Eclipse Day. Note the flash-flood warnings for Wyandotte County, KS and also the northland area of KC. At 7 PM the Lawrence Airport recorded a high of 91, low of 73 and 0.26 inches of rainfall. However when we arrived home, the streets were dry in west Lawrence and no rain had fallen at my residence to 7 PM. Topeka had a high of 92 with 0.01 inches at the north Topeka Airport and a trace at Forbes Field.
Kansas City Radar Precipitation Accumulation up to 6:32 PM. Over 2 inches fell in parts of the northeast KC metro. Kansas City International had a high of 83, low of 71 and 1.32 inches of rainfall. The St Joseph Airport had a high of 84, low of 73 and 0.05 inches of rainfall. The downtown Kansas City Airport, located within but very near the south edge of totality, had a high of 82, low of 73 and 0.28 inches of rainfall. Johnson County Executive in northeast Olathe had a high of 87, low of 70 with 0.36 inches of rainfall. New Century Airport in Gardner had a high of 89, low of 72 and no rainfall.
Near our eclipse site, Beatrice, NE, (to the west) had a high 86 and low of 75. Falls City (to the east) had a high of 87 and low of 73. Rainfall was scattered and mainly on the light side the morning of theeclipse in southeast Nebraska.
Later, on ‘Eclipse day night’ and and through to 7 AM the next morning, from 4 to 8 inches of rain fell across most of the area from around Topeka on across the Lawrence and Kansas City area. This exceptionally heavy and widespread ‘post-eclipse’ rainfall event in the Lawrence area will be covered in my next post!