Boundary-Layer Meteorology

, Volume 171, Issue 2, pp 257–270 | Cite as

Observations and Numerical Simulation of the Effects of the 21 August 2017 North American Total Solar Eclipse on Surface Conditions and Atmospheric Boundary-Layer Evolution

  • Michael S. BubanEmail author
  • Temple R. Lee
  • Edward J. Dumas
  • C. Bruce Baker
  • Mark Heuer
Research Article


We present unique observations of a total solar eclipse from a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) platform that was operated during the 21 August 2017 North American solar eclipse. The observations were collected near Ten Mile, Tennessee, where eclipse totality lasted 2 min 38 s. A 2-m micrometeorological tripod was erected on-site to measure surface and air temperature, near-surface water vapour, incoming and outgoing shortwave and longwave radiative fluxes, and turbulent fluxes. The sUAS platform and micrometeorological tripod observations indicate significant cooling below a height of 50 m above ground level (a.g.l.) during and shortly after totality. Near-surface temperatures do not return to pre-eclipse values until about 60 min following totality. Above about 50 m a.g.l., smaller temperature changes are observed during the eclipse, as the duration of the eclipse has less influence on deeper boundary-layer turbulence. Additionally, the sensible heat flux becomes slightly negative around totality, and the turbulence kinetic energy and vertical velocity variance concurrently decrease. The evolution of the near-surface meteorological fields are investigated in more detail using a large-eddy simulation (LES) model. The simulations generally reproduce the observations well, in terms of the timing and magnitude of changes in temperature, moisture and sensible and latent heat fluxes. However, the LES model slightly underestimates the diurnal range and decrease in temperature during the eclipse while overestimating the sensible heat fluxes.


Eclipse Large-eddy simulation Sensible heat flux Small unmanned aircraft systems 



We thank Kym Swanks, Tom Swanks, and Jerry Swanks of Ten Mile, Tennessee for allowing us to set up our micrometeorological tripod and to perform the sUAS platform flights on and over their property. We are grateful for their hospitality and eagerness to help us with our scientific measurements. We also thank four anonymous reviewers and Rick Saylor (ATDD) whose insights helped us to improve the manuscript. Finally, we note that the results and conclusions, as well as any views expressed herein, are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of NOAA or the Department of Commerce.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS)Oak RidgeUSA
  2. 2.NOAA/OAR/ARL Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion DivisionOak RidgeUSA
  3. 3.Oak Ridge Associated UniversitiesOak RidgeUSA

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