Environment

How a total solar eclipse affects life on earth

How a solar eclipse affects life on...

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Have you ever wondered how a solar eclipse affects life on earth? Two local experts explained how everything from animals to changes in weather are affected by this event.

On August 21, 2017, the first total solar eclipse to cross the continental United States in nearly 100 years occurred, and millions of people traveled to view the eclipse in what's called the "path of totality"--a swath across the country where there will be a total solar eclipse.

The path of totality is generally where changes in weather occur as daylight turns to dusk.

"Well depending on how long the totality is, certainly the temperature can drop anywhere from a few degrees to as much as 10 degrees during an eclipse that may last up to six minutes," said Joe Sirard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Once an eclipse is over, the temperatures will come right back up. This year's total solar eclipse only lasted about three minutes.

Although the most obvious weather change during a total solar eclipse is a drop in temperatures, in some cases, the sky goes from being clear to suddenly having clouds appear out of nowhere.

"I was down in Baja for the [1991] eclipse and we had a clear sky. Then the last 15 minutes, clouds started condensing because the temperature dropped and hit its dew point. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, we got clouds," said Ken Kihlstrom, a physics professor at Westmont College.

While people see the eclipse as something of wonder, animals see it differently and may act strangely.

"Mostly it's animals in that they'll start to nest for the night. You know--they're sort of confused. Insects will react to it. But then it comes out pretty quickly, and it's like whoa, that wasn't a good night's sleep," said Kihlstrom.

Scientists continue to study the effects total solar eclipses have on other aspects of our daily life, and presents them with an opportunity to unlock some of the most intricate mysteries of the sun.

The next total solar eclipse to be seen in the U.S. will be in 2024 with its path of totality starting in Texas and ending in Maine.


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