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Solar Scribbles: Early insight into Rochester’s chances at a clear sky

todayFebruary 7, 2024 2

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As we inch closer to April’s total solar eclipse, Chief Meteorologist Eric Snitil will share stories from his experience tracking the “Great American Eclipse” of 2017. These first-hand experiences will hopefully add some texture & insight as to what you can expect during this once-in-a-lifetime event right in our own backyard.

Finding a spot along the path of totality during a solar eclipse is easy. Finding a spot along the path of totality during a solar eclipse with relatively clear skies is hard. Indeed, I’ve highlighted the inherent element of luck involved in not only getting a favorable forecast on eclipse day but keeping clouds out of your line of sight for those 3 critical minutes. We’re now about 2 months away from April 8. To be clear, there is no reliable guidance that can offer the kind of detail & resolution necessary for a scientific interpretation of what our sky will look like that day. What we can do, however, is broadly sample monthly climate outlooks and look at past history for how April 8 has played out in Rochester.

History tells us (statistically speaking) that Rochester has a roughly 1/3 chance of a clear/partly cloudy sky at 3pm on April 8th. This utilizes data dating back to 1974. It’s important to note, there is a BIG difference in outcomes between clear and partly cloudy. But they’re the best-case-scenarios in a region where April clearing is not necessarily “the usual”. Overcast conditions, which would essentially kill any view of the show for anyone locally, occurred about 44% of the time.

While we’re reasonably confident a colder (and likely snowier) pattern will return to WNY into the second half of February & early March, April is a different animal. Early signals are much more mixed and inherently more unreliable given the added element of additional time. Long range Euro seasonal data suggest April will lean warmer and wetter than average.

CFS v2 seasonal data has a slight lean toward drier than average in April, which could be loosely interpreted as encouraging from a generalized cloud cover standpoint.

Look, attempting to extrapolate any tidbits of insight for a particular day at a particular hour two months ahead of time is fruitless. Even if seasonal data resoundingly comes in drier than average, it has zero bearing on what is going to happen on April 8th in the middle part of the afternoon. So when does forecast modeling start to have some bearing?

We can start getting a VERY general and basic sense of the overall pattern a few weeks ahead of time. Within a week, we’re starting to get a feel for what April 8th’s situation might actually look like. Even there, the most likely outcome is at least some element of a mixed sky, meaning we’re going down to the wire to sample the sort of resolution necessary to make a call. For now, leaning on past history is the only metric to give us at least some appreciation of odds. But it is meaningless in terms of what will happen THIS April 8th. We’ll reassess some of the pattern signals as the weeks tick on by.

Also, I’ll be crossing my fingers. I encourage you to do the same Can’t hurt, right?

​ As we inch closer to April’s total solar eclipse, Chief Meteorologist Eric Snitil will share stories from his experience tracking the “Great American Eclipse” of 2017. These first-hand experiences will hopefully add some texture & insight as to what you can expect during this once-in-a-lifetime event right in our own backyard.

Finding a spot along the path of totality during a solar eclipse is easy. Finding a spot along the path of totality during a solar eclipse with relatively clear skies is hard. Indeed, I’ve highlighted the inherent element of luck involved in not only getting a favorable forecast on eclipse day but keeping clouds out of your line of sight for those 3 critical minutes. We’re now about 2 months away from April 8. To be clear, there is no reliable guidance that can offer the kind of detail & resolution necessary for a scientific interpretation of what our sky will look like that day. What we can do, however, is broadly sample monthly climate outlooks and look at past history for how April 8 has played out in Rochester.

History tells us (statistically speaking) that Rochester has a roughly 1/3 chance of a clear/partly cloudy sky at 3pm on April 8th. This utilizes data dating back to 1974. It’s important to note, there is a BIG difference in outcomes between clear and partly cloudy. But they’re the best-case-scenarios in a region where April clearing is not necessarily “the usual”. Overcast conditions, which would essentially kill any view of the show for anyone locally, occurred about 44% of the time.

While we’re reasonably confident a colder (and likely snowier) pattern will return to WNY into the second half of February & early March, April is a different animal. Early signals are much more mixed and inherently more unreliable given the added element of additional time. Long range Euro seasonal data suggest April will lean warmer and wetter than average.

CFS v2 seasonal data has a slight lean toward drier than average in April, which could be loosely interpreted as encouraging from a generalized cloud cover standpoint.

Look, attempting to extrapolate any tidbits of insight for a particular day at a particular hour two months ahead of time is fruitless. Even if seasonal data resoundingly comes in drier than average, it has zero bearing on what is going to happen on April 8th in the middle part of the afternoon. So when does forecast modeling start to have some bearing?

We can start getting a VERY general and basic sense of the overall pattern a few weeks ahead of time. Within a week, we’re starting to get a feel for what April 8th’s situation might actually look like. Even there, the most likely outcome is at least some element of a mixed sky, meaning we’re going down to the wire to sample the sort of resolution necessary to make a call. For now, leaning on past history is the only metric to give us at least some appreciation of odds. But it is meaningless in terms of what will happen THIS April 8th. We’ll reassess some of the pattern signals as the weeks tick on by.

Also, I’ll be crossing my fingers. I encourage you to do the same Can’t hurt, right? Read More Eclipse LocalRochesterFirst  

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