Palmer: More to an eclipse experience than the sun and moon

by: KIRO 7 Chief Meteorologist Morgan Palmer Updated:

I called the total solar eclipse Monday "otherworldly."  It really is an amazing and rather surreal experience like nothing anywhere else.

While most folks focused on the sun's corona -- the atmosphere of the sun -- during the two-minute period of totality, I made sure to look around and "feel" the eclipse.

Temperature drops sharply

In the 15 or so minutes before the period of totality, it was obviously getting cooler instead of warmer despite it being 10 a.m. in the high desert of central Oregon. 

The air temperature at our site likely fell ten degrees or so (I didn't have a thermometer with me), and the cooling was more apparent to those of us out in the sun.  The sunlight was getting slightly dimmer, but it was very clear that less warming solar energy was falling on our skin!

The "coolest" time was during the period of totality itself.  It turned back to jacket weather on the high desert land very quickly!

Nature's "dimmer switch"

In the minutes before totality, it was also getting darker and darker as more of the sun was obscured by the moon.  Unlike at sunrise and sunset when it's darker than midday and everything takes on a reddish tone, this was a very strange sort of "darker!"

Colors seemed to become much more muted -- not nearly as vibrant -- as in full sun.  And that phenomenon became more and more obvious.

I was able to see the sky quickly getting dark in the west before totality and getting lighter in the west as it was coming to an end -- a complete reversal of what we see at sunrise and sunset! 

But the true "wow" moment for me came about five seconds before the total eclipse when it was truly like nature just turned down the "dimmer switch" very quickly.

Before my eyes, the sky went from blue to a very dark navy -- almost a nighttime sky.  Stars and planets suddenly appeared out of nowhere!

During the period of totality, while it is quite dark overhead aside from the obscured sun and its glowing corona, there is a ring of light on the horizon in every direction -- light from those locations outside of the moon's shadow.  Amazing!

The big show is above, but look around during a total eclipse!

I made a point to separate myself from some of the crowds (and even from my very busy photographer Mike Griffith) during totality.  I had read so much and viewed so many videos, so as a scientist I wanted to be sure not to miss that two-minute opportunity to take in as much of the eclipse experience as possible and make mental observations!

If you ever have the chance to witness a total solar eclipse, grab your eclipse glasses, take a jacket but don't only focus on the beautiful, eclipsed sun.  Take a moment also during that special and all-too-short period to look around at just how your place on the planet has completely and suddenly changed. 

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