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    In the path or not - you won't see the eclipse if the weather doesn't cooperate!

  • Terry Cuttle

    Yeah, make sure I've got flexibility at the end, to move, because, sort of obviously, weather is number one!

  • Fred Espenak

    Let's just hope we have a wonderful big bubble of high pressure sitting over the whole United States.

  • Kelly Beatty

    This business of eclipse weather forecasting, that Jay Anderson has pioneered, has gotten very sophisticated. At the end of the day, it's all about what's going on in your location.

  • Fred Espenak

    I can predict exactly when and where they're gonna take place, but I can't tell you what the weather's gonna be on that particular day.

  • Kelly Beatty

    You know, climate is what you predict - and weather is what you get.

  • Fred Espenak

    You've only got a few precious minutes - you know, it might be one minute, it might be three or four minutes, but it's never long enough. And you've got to make the most of that very brief opportunity, and if that means you have to jump in a car and drive like crazy to get to the right place at the right time, you've gotta do it - cause it's just the one shot, there's no instant replay.

  • Fred Espenak

    Yeah, there's no do-overs.

  • Sounds like it's time for us to check in with the world's leading expert on eclipse weather - Jay Anderson. Jay worked for years with Fred Espenak in developing the NASA eclipse bulletins, and his predictions still determine to a great deal where most of the world's heavy-hitting eclipse chasers go - in order to ensure that they'll actually SEE totality. I know that his recommendations actually saved more than a couple of my personal eclipse expeditions...

  • Jay Pasachoff

    Yeah, I'm in close touch with Jay. In fact, I'm the author of the Peterson Field Guide to the Stars and Planets, that has a lot of eclipse stuff in it, of course. And I wound up offering to help the Peterson people update their guide to weather - the previous authors had died, and it needed some updating, and I brought Jay Anderson in. So Jay Anderson and I are doing the Peterson Field Guide to weather, and we're in close touch. But I do rely on his maps and predictions, and we just try to keep in touch, about where to go to optimize our chances of really seeing the eclipse.

  • OK - that's a pretty good recommendation! Let's spend some quality time now with Jay Anderson - the world's leading eclipse weather forecaster!

  • Jay Anderson

    Climate is what you expect, and weather is what you get.

  • Jay Anderson

    Climate is what you expect, and weather is what you get. There's some truth to that, in the sense that you can use the climate to plan the weather, for your biggest advantage. We do it all the time when we pick our holiday sites, and things like that, and we can do it for the eclipse. Look at the climate, look at what to expect, quote-unquote, and really all it is is a probability. And then say, OK - this is a good spot, I wouldn't mind going there; and this one's almost as good, I wouldn't mind going there. And we'll keep a plan C if plans A and B don't work.

  • Jay Anderson

    All you have to do is look at the vegetation; if you're looking out, and you're seeing scrub brush and little bushes and everything looks baked and dry, then you're in a dry climate. Now, if it's lush and full of greenery, then you might wanna think about where you're gonna go.

  • Jay Anderson

    Pure bloody luck, more than anything else.

  • Jay Anderson

    Two things: One is, I work very hard at doing it. And two, nobody else does.

  • Jay Anderson

    Just having the knowledge as a meteorologist, and the interest as an astronomer to go ahead and put these things together that people could use.

  • Jay Anderson

    No, it's a good idea, because what it does is, it gives you a probability to some extent - and that's essentially what's happened on my web page is, I go back and I usually look at 20 years worth of data. And the cloud cover and the patterns are there, we know that the west coast has got fog. But you get a few miles inland, and you've got a lot of clear skies. You dip over [the] top into the valleys, and the cloud cover changes by 15%, and you go over another valley and you're in the Columbia plateau. All of a sudden, you've got a lot of really nice weather there, and you go up over the mountains on the way to Casper and it gets cloudy - And those patterns are all there, and they're there on a day to day basis. And it doesn't mean you won't see the eclipse if you want to get into the Cascades, or the Columbia mountains, but it just means you're reducing your odds. So, to me it's a question of - do you want to see the eclipse really badly, or do you want to see the eclipse from a really neat place? Once you get to the east side of the Mississippi, cloud increases because the Gulf of Mexico supplies the moisture for it. But there's more than that, too - you might want to pick an area with a good promising cloud cover, but also has an interstate that runs right down the eclipse track - so you can run for it if you have to.

  • Jay Anderson

    If you want to have your best chance in long-range planning, you play the mountains. You stay on the downwind side of the mountains; it's so dramatic the way those mountains eat cloud. Get on the windward side, it builds 'em, and you get on the leeward side where the air is coming downhill, and it just chews holes right in it and opens it up. And a lot of people found that worked to their advantage in '79, when the eclipse went over Oregon and Washington.

  • Jay Anderson

    I look at my web page and I get 20 hits a week, and then the week before an eclipse I get 100,000.

  • Jay Anderson

    Talk to the crowd, make decisions, move the ship.

  • Jay Anderson

    You know, I could close an airport by just writing, "Chance of half mile and fog". And every airline flying into that airport or across that airport has to put extra fuel on. Or I can shut down a wedding by saying "No, you're gonna rain on that day." So you learn to make decisions in an environment where you don't have complete information. All the ships that I've been on, I've had to redirect the ship - sometimes just a little bit, sometimes quite a bit. And so, you've gotta have that background, or personality, that you take charge, make a decision, knowing that you could be wrong. And one of the things we've found in the weather office is that if we hired somebody with a Ph.D in meteorology, they often didn't make a very good meteorologist because, they were trained to collect evidence before they made a decision. And we said, now's the deadline, you can't have another radar picture, you can't have another satellite picture - you gotta say cloudy or sunny right now. So I think the next person who wants to do this, or another person would probably want to be what we call an operational meteorologist. Somebody who can make a decision and who wants to put the hard work in.

  • Jay Anderson

    Oh, well the collection of climatological data - and I have an enormous number of sources that I've accumulated over the years, from well before the Internet came along - but, the climatological part of it is just straight data collection, and map drawing. But it's the part that comes when you're traveling with the tour, and you have to make the decision. It's really tough to have a bus about to turn into a little village in Africa, where they've got a great big ceremony for you, and dances and food laid on, and welcoming committees, and as the bus approaches the turn you say nope, we're not going in there - we're gonna keep going and get out from under the cloud if we can. All of a sudden you've got 300 people sitting over there - you know, those are, those are tough decisions to make, and people are expecting this really wonderful thing gonna be happening with that community that's really put their heart and soul into it.

  • Jay Anderson

    Well, you can make plans a year ahead of time, and say, Gee it'd be nice if we took the family up and looked at the mountains or, went over to Jackson WY and had a look at the ski hills and all that sort of thing, or maybe go along the Mississippi there and have a look at the river. But, when it comes to actual planning for the eclipse, you kind of have to not get locked into plans, and you actually start about a week ahead of time. And you just look at the forecast. The US is filled with all kinds of meteorological advice, and most of it is pretty competent. Now, the radio stations, TV stations, might pick this up a week ahead of time. More likely to be three days ahead of time, or something - but it'll build gradually. Somebody who wanted to make plans a little further ahead would have to go on the Web and look for a seven-to-ten-day forecast. Normally, you wouldn't believe a forecast that's eight, nine, ten days out - it'd maybe just give you an idea, but once you get within seven, you start looking to see whether the site you want to go to is looking good for eclipse day. If it's a long way away, you may have to start early, and if it's not too far away and you're planning to stay close to home, then you can probably leave it to three or two days ahead of time and say "OK, here's where we're gonna go." For those that are under the track, they could probably wake up in the morning and start looking at the satellite pictures or the radar, and you know I gotta scoot 50 miles this way, or, you better get moving early so we can get into place! There's good forecasting in the U.S., and that forecasting is good enough that anybody who wants to see the eclipse can see the eclipse.

  • Jay Anderson

    In general, by the time you get to within 24 hours of the event, all of these different predictions start to come together, into a more or less coherent path. Which if you're doing your planning right, you're not gonna be looking for a little hole in the clouds - you're gonna be looking for a place where no clouds at all are forecast. And you might have to drive from Nebraska into Wyoming to get it, or the other direction. Or, Illinois down into Kentucky. But, if you're serious about this eclipse, you're not gonna play the marginal game - you're gonna really lengthen your odds by going right into the middle of where the most clear skies are forecast.

  • Jay Anderson

    Climate is what you expect, and weather is what you get.


  • Absolutely! Thanks so much for the time, Jay!
    Next, we'll be diving into a beautiful topic - eclipse maps! Please join us for that!


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