SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Eclipse

49

The British Isles benefits from dense meteorological observation networks, enabling insights into the still-unresolved effects of solar eclipse events on the near-surface wind field. The near-surface effects of the solar eclipse of 20 March 2015 are derived through comparison of output from the Met Office’s operational weather forecast model (which is ignorant of the eclipse) with data from two meteorological networks: the Met Office’s land surface station (MIDAS) network and a roadside measurement network operated by Vaisala. Synoptic-evolution relative calculations reveal the cooling and increase in relative humidity almost universally attributed to eclipse events. In addition, a slackening of wind speeds by up to about 2 knots in already weak winds and backing in wind direction of about 20° under clear skies across middle England are attributed to the eclipse event. The slackening of wind speed is consistent with the previously reported boundary layer stabilization during eclipse events. Wind direction changes have previously been attributed to a large-scale ‘eclipse-induced cold-cored cyclone’, mountain slope flows, and changes in the strength of sea breezes. A new explanation is proposed here by analogy with nocturnal wind changes at sunset and shown to predict direction changes consistent with those observed.This article is part of the themed issue ‘Atmospheric effects of solar eclipses stimulated by the 2015 UK eclipse’.

Concepts: Earth, Sun, Wind, Wind power, British Isles, Weather forecasting, Eclipse, Solar eclipse

46

The National Eclipse Weather Experiment (NEWEx) was a citizen science project designed to assess the effects of the 20 March 2015 partial solar eclipse on the weather over the United Kingdom (UK). NEWEx had two principal objectives: to provide a spatial network of meteorological observations across the UK to aid the investigation of eclipse-induced weather changes, and to develop a nationwide public engagement activity-based participation of citizen scientists. In total, NEWEx collected 15 606 observations of air temperature, cloudiness and wind speed and direction from 309 locations across the UK, over a 3 h window spanning the eclipse period. The headline results were processed in near real time, immediately published online, and featured in UK national press articles on the day of the eclipse. Here, we describe the technical development of NEWEx and how the observations provided by the citizen scientists were analysed. By comparing the results of the NEWEx analyses with results from other investigations of the same eclipse using different observational networks, including measurements from the University of Reading’s Atmospheric Observatory, we demonstrate that NEWEx provided a fair representation of the change in the UK meteorological conditions throughout the eclipse. Despite the simplicity of the approach adopted, robust reductions in both temperature and wind speed during the eclipse were observed.This article is part of the themed issue ‘Atmospheric effects of solar eclipses stimulated by the 2015 UK eclipse’.

Concepts: Earth, Sun, United Kingdom, Lunar eclipse, Meteorology, Wind, Eclipse, Solar eclipse

20

Internal gravity waves are generated as adjustment radiation whenever a sudden change in forcing causes the atmosphere to depart from its large-scale balanced state. Such a forcing anomaly occurs during a solar eclipse, when the Moon’s shadow cools part of the Earth’s surface. The resulting atmospheric gravity waves are associated with pressure and temperature perturbations, which in principle are detectable both at the surface and aloft. In this study, surface pressure and temperature data from two UK sites at Reading and Lerwick are examined for eclipse-driven gravity wave perturbations during the 20 March 2015 solar eclipse over northwest Europe. Radiosonde wind data from the same two sites are also analysed using a moving parcel analysis method, to determine the periodicities of the waves aloft. On this occasion, the perturbations both at the surface and aloft are found not to be confidently attributable to eclipse-driven gravity waves. We conclude that the complex synoptic weather conditions over the UK at the time of this particular eclipse helped to mask any eclipse-driven gravity waves.This article is part of the themed issue ‘Atmospheric effects of solar eclipses stimulated by the 2015 UK eclipse’.

Concepts: Earth, Moon, Lunar eclipse, Eclipse, Ecliptic, Gravity wave, Solar eclipse, Saros cycle

6

There is a need to identify individuals with COPD at risk for disease progression and mortality. Lung tissue remodeling is associated with the release of extracellular matrix (ECM) fragments into the peripheral circulation. We hypothesized that ECM remodeling was associated with mortality in COPD and measured neo-epitopes originating from ECM proteins associated with lung tissue remodeling.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Blood, Lung, Collagen, Extracellular matrix, Actuarial science, Eclipse

6

A solar eclipse provides a well-characterized reduction in solar radiation, of calculable amount and duration. This captivating natural astronomical phenomenon is ideally suited to science outreach activities, but the predictability of the change in solar radiation also provides unusual conditions for assessing the atmospheric response to a known stimulus. Modern automatic observing networks used for weather forecasting and atmospheric research have dense spatial coverage, so the quantitative meteorological responses to an eclipse can now be evaluated with excellent space and time resolution. Numerical models representing the atmosphere at high spatial resolution can also be used to predict eclipse-related changes and interpret the observations. Combining the models with measurements yields the elements of a controlled atmospheric experiment on a regional scale (10-1000 km), which is almost impossible to achieve by other means. This modern approach to ‘eclipse meteorology’ as identified here can ultimately improve weather prediction models and be used to plan for transient reductions in renewable electricity generation. During the 20 March 2015 eclipse, UK electrical energy demand increased by about 3 GWh (11 TJ) or about 4%, alongside reductions in the wind and photovoltaic electrical energy generation of 1.5 GWh (5.5 TJ).This article is part of the themed issue ‘Atmospheric effects of solar eclipses stimulated by the 2015 UK eclipse’.

Concepts: Earth, Sun, Mercury, Meteorology, Wind, Weather forecasting, Eclipse, Solar eclipse

5

Solar eclipses provide unique possibilities to investigate atmospheric processes, such as new particle formation (NPF), important to the global aerosol load and radiative balance. The temporary absence of solar radiation gives particular insight into different oxidation and clustering processes leading to NPF. This is crucial because our mechanistic understanding on how NPF is related to photochemistry is still rather limited. During a partial solar eclipse over Finland in 2015, we found that this phenomenon had prominent effects on atmospheric on-going NPF. During the eclipse, the sources of aerosol precursor gases, such as sulphuric acid and nitrogen- containing highly oxidised organic compounds, decreased considerably, which was followed by a reduced formation of small clusters and nanoparticles and thus termination of NPF. After the eclipse, aerosol precursor molecule concentrations recovered and re-initiated NPF. Our results provide direct evidence on the key role of the photochemical production of sulphuric acid and highly oxidized organic compounds in maintaining atmospheric NPF. Our results also explain the rare occurrence of this phenomenon under dark conditions, as well as its seemingly weak connection with atmospheric ions.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Carbon dioxide, Earth, Hydrogen, Carbon, Lunar eclipse, Eclipse, Solar eclipse

3

The ancient Greek astronomical calculating machine, known as the Antikythera Mechanism, predicted eclipses, based on the 223-lunar month Saros cycle. Eclipses are indicated on a four-turn spiral Saros Dial by glyphs, which describe type and time of eclipse and include alphabetical index letters, referring to solar eclipse inscriptions. These include Index Letter Groups, describing shared eclipse characteristics. The grouping and ordering of the index letters, the organization of the inscriptions and the eclipse times have previously been unsolved. A new reading and interpretation of data from the back plate of the Antikythera Mechanism, including the glyphs, the index letters and the eclipse inscriptions, has resulted in substantial changes to previously published work. Based on these new readings, two arithmetical models are presented here that explain the complete eclipse prediction scheme. The first model solves the glyph distribution, the grouping and anomalous ordering of the index letters and the structure of the inscriptions. It also implies the existence of lost lunar eclipse inscriptions. The second model closely matches the glyph times and explains the four-turn spiral of the Saros Dial. Together, these models imply a surprisingly early epoch for the Antikythera Mechanism. The ancient Greeks built a machine that can predict, for many years ahead, not only eclipses but also a remarkable array of their characteristics, such as directions of obscuration, magnitude, colour, angular diameter of the Moon, relationship with the Moon’s node and eclipse time. It was not entirely accurate, but it was an astonishing achievement for its era.

Concepts: Earth, Moon, Lunar eclipse, Eclipse, Solar eclipse, Saros cycle, Eclipse cycle, Antikythera mechanism

2

Solar eclipses provide a rapidly changing solar radiation environment. These changes can be studied using simple photodiode sensors, if the radiation reaching the sensors is unaffected by cloud. Transporting the sensors aloft using standard meteorological instrument packages modified to carry extra sensors, provides one promising but hitherto unexploited possibility for making solar eclipse radiation measurements. For the 20 March 2015 solar eclipse, a coordinated campaign of balloon-carried solar radiation measurements was undertaken from Reading (51.44°N, 0.94°W), Lerwick (60.15°N, 1.13°W) and Reykjavik (64.13°N, 21.90°W), straddling the path of the eclipse. The balloons reached sufficient altitude at the eclipse time for eclipse-induced variations in solar radiation and solar limb darkening to be measured above cloud. Because the sensor platforms were free to swing, techniques have been evaluated to correct the measurements for their changing orientation. In the swing-averaged technique, the mean value across a set of swings was used to approximate the radiation falling on a horizontal surface; in the swing-maximum technique, the direct beam was estimated by assuming that the maximum solar radiation during a swing occurs when the photodiode sensing surface becomes normal to the direction of the solar beam. Both approaches, essentially independent, give values that agree with theoretical expectations for the eclipse-induced radiation changes.This article is part of the themed issue ‘Atmospheric effects of solar eclipses stimulated by the 2015 UK eclipse’.

Concepts: Earth, Sun, Lunar eclipse, Eclipse, Solar eclipse, Saros cycle, Eclipse cycle, Limb darkening

2

This article reports on the near-surface atmospheric response at the High Arctic site of Svalbard, latitude 78° N, as a result of abrupt changes in solar insolation during the 20 March 2015 equinox total solar eclipse and notifies the atmospheric science community of the availability of a rare dataset. Svalbard was central in the path of totality, and had completely clear skies. Measurements of shaded air temperature and atmospheric pressure show only weak, if any, responses to the reduced insolation. A minimum in the air temperature at 1.5 m above the ground occurred starting 2 min following the end of totality, though this drop was only slightly beyond the observed variability for the midday period. Eclipse-produced variations in surface pressure, if present, were less than 0.3 hPa.This article is part of the themed issue ‘Atmospheric effects of solar eclipses stimulated by the 2015 UK eclipse’.

Concepts: Earth, Sun, Lunar eclipse, Mercury, Eclipse, Solar eclipse, Saros cycle, Eclipse cycle

1

Here, we analyse high-frequency (1 min) surface air temperature, mean sea-level pressure (MSLP), wind speed and direction and cloud-cover data acquired during the solar eclipse of 20 March 2015 from 76 UK Met Office weather stations, and compare the results with those from 30 weather stations in the Faroe Islands and 148 stations in Iceland. There was a statistically significant mean UK temperature drop of 0.83±0.63°C, which occurred over 39 min on average, and the minimum temperature lagged the peak of the eclipse by about 10 min. For a subset of 14 (16) relatively clear (cloudy) stations, the mean temperature drop was 0.91±0.78 (0.31±0.40)°C but the mean temperature drops for relatively calm and windy stations were almost identical. Mean wind speed dropped significantly by 9% on average during the first half of the eclipse. There was no discernible effect of the eclipse on the wind-direction or MSLP time series, and therefore we can discount any localized eclipse cyclone effect over Britain during this event. Similar changes in air temperature and wind speed are observed for Iceland, where conditions were generally clearer, but here too there was no evidence of an eclipse cyclone; in the Faroes, there was a much more muted meteorological signature.This article is part of the themed issue ‘Atmospheric effects of solar eclipses stimulated by the 2015 UK eclipse’.

Concepts: Earth, Weather, Atmospheric pressure, Denmark, Scandinavia, Eclipse, Faroe Islands, Solar eclipse