April 07, 2024

The "Hail Mary" Strategy for Texas Eclipse Watchers

The forecasts have not been favorable for the many total eclipse seekers in Texas, with considerable clouds forecast for tomorrow morning.  

But the latest forecasts show this is a significant chance to experience the full impact of the total eclipse in a narrow band across a portion of northern Texas--one worth a try.

A Hail Mary strategy for eclipse enthusiasts.

For those not familiar with this terminology:

In American football, a Hail Mary pass is a long forward pass with a low chance of being completed, usually made in desperationIt's often used by the losing team when time is running out and no other play is practical, in an attempt to score the winning points. The term "Hail Mary" comes from a last-ditch prayer for strength and help

Instructions for the "Hail Mary" Eclipse Strategy

First, you need to know exactly where the area of totality will be (see below).  It does not pay to be anywhere else.   A band passing over San Antonia and Dallas.


The excellent and high-resolution NOAA/NWS HRRR model shows a narrow band of fewer clouds extending southwest to northeast during the eclipse (1900 UTC) across Texas.  I have indicated with a blue oval the general area with totality and lesser clouds.


What about the European Center Model at the same time (see below)?  The less cloudy slot will be displaced 50-100 miles to the southeast, with my suggested area circled again in blue.


A simulated infrared satellite image for this time also suggests an opening over extreme NW Texas (darker shades indicate less clouds)


If you are in Texas, you need to follow the latest NOAA HRRR forecasts and shift appropriately.   But at this point, northeast Texas looks like the best place to be.

And now some cloud subtleties that are important.

Not all clouds are equal in messing up your eclipse viewing. 

Thick low-level clouds made of water droplets are the worst.  But high cirrus ice clouds are not as problematic.  You can often watch the eclipse action through them...although they can obscure the finer features like solar prominences.  

Below are the European Center model's cloud cover forecasts at the critical time for the various layers (as well as the total cloud cover).  By the way, this graphic is from the WeatherBell website.....which is more than worth the modest subscription cost).

There are no low and middle-level clouds over the northeast Texas part of the eclipse path!  Very good.  There are some high clouds, but the thin area is evident.

Based on the latest model guidance, I believe that folks over northeast Texas may get a very good view of the eclipse.  Get in position early, guided by model output (available here and here).   

Good luck to all.  Experiencing a total eclipse in person is a near-religious experience, worth a "Hail Mary" effort.




5 comments:

  1. I flew my Learjet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun.

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    1. Here, "...clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee!"

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  2. We've long had reservations near Waco TX and farther north in Bloomington IN as an alternative - both as guest rooms in friends' houses. But then we considered such things as the fact that Covid is still out there especially on airplanes, as well as the predicted traffic chaos (Bloomington - pop 72,000 - estimated 300,000 before it was identified as the only likely place inn the Midwest free of cloud cover. Buffalo is expecting a million!), and the general April weather uncertainty. We saw the one in 2017 from Baskett Slough Wildlife Refuge west of Salem, and I saw the one in February 1979 from the hills behind The Dalles in the cloud shadow of Mt. Hood. So we are sitting this one out.

    We have all sorts of musician friends in Galicia, along with colleagues who, like me, make flutes and bagpipes. We play Galician music with a band that stretches from Seattle to San Diego. So we are thinking of seeing the August 12, 2026 eclipse near sunset that lasts only 1:17 with the center-line hitting the coast right at the boundary with Asturias. The following year on August 2, 2027 there is a much longer eclipse similar to tomorrows that will be visible from Gibralter to the pyramids in Egypt. In Egypt the totality is about a minute longer than tomorrows. Did I mention the one in 2026 is in Galicia?

    So I am feeling a bit smug and safe with no travel anxieties, while I get to observe eclipse watchers from afar. I wonder how Texans especially will cope with the disappointment of cloudy skies and epic traffic jams of biblical proportions. I predict that there will be instances of road rage and other chaos. I am glad to avoid all of that.

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  3. Note that shortly after the eclipse the weather in northeast Texas may get a bit dangerous.

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  4. Please forgive anything that doesn't make sense as I could barely sleep Sunday night out of anticipation, and I have to go to the airport in an hour on no sleep here in the middle of Monday night.

    Success just north of Poplar Bluff, MO! We had intended the NE Arkansas plain as per the Sunday NWS update, but it turned out that a mix of cirrostratus and cirrus appeared in AR on the visible satellite about an hour before 1st contact. We had set out southbound from St. Louis at 7 am and were nearly to the AR border, before we doubled back north of Poplar Bluff once it became clear that clouds were thickening to the south instead of dissipating.

    Once we got to Greenville, we had banked enough blue sky behind us to the south to feel comfortable. The Sun was close to the meridian high in the south, and the weather direction was southwest. I felt it critical to get the bluest skies possible in that weather direction to account for hijinks once the partial phase was underway. We set up on the banks of the St. Francis River and prayed for no late surprises.

    The crickets did come out at 75% magnitude, but most birds seemed slower to respond than I've seen in the past. A pair of hawks were still trying to soar on nonexistent thermals with a 90% mag crescent Sun. While it wasn't crystal clear for totality, it was clear enough to see the corona in all its glory, and the twin prominences on the south limb were particularly noticeable. The bigger one had a striking pink hook visible to the naked eye. We noticed very little in the way of ground effects like wavy snake patterns. Venus and Jupiter framed our regal star.

    I've seen some bad post-eclipse traffic, but yesterday's was particularly hellacious. Since clouds were a problem for so much of the track, the most dedicated chasers abandoned their spots in Texas and drove through the night to fill humble SE MO. I remember seeing a Porsche Cayenne with a license plate from the state of Veracruz! -- not at all a common occurrence in MO. Poplar Bluff was not the circus that I had feared it might be, but the roads afterward were, with numerous accidents and long delays on even the most obscure country roads.

    Drained after the death march home but giddy at the experience, we're now thinking about the great Saharan eclipse in a few years. Congratulations to all who saw it, and my sincerest condolences to any who were clouded out.

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