Weather Blog

Partial annular solar eclipse set for Sunday

Partial annular solar eclipse set for Sunday
Photo: NASA Goodard Space Flight Center

Our streak of six consecutive weekends of mostly sunny weather is about to end at the most inopportune time -- right before the Pacific Northwest gets treated to at least a partial solar eclipse Sunday evening.

This eclipse isn't a "total" solar eclipse, where the moon is relatively the same size as the sun and covers it perfectly. Instead, this is an "annular" eclipse in that the moon is near its farthest away point in its elliptical orbit around Earth (remember the "Supermoon" two weeks ago? It's the opposite end of the spectrum this weekend) and thus will be relatively a little bit smaller than the sun, not covering it all the way when it slides in front.

So what will happen is when the sun and moon align, the moon will only cover roughly 94% of the sun, leaving it more like a big black spot in the middle, with the outer edge of the sun visible -- what some are calling a "ring of fire."

The path where you will see the moon fully inside the sun's diameter is close to the Northwest, but not close enough to where we get the full show. If you're looking for a front row seat, the eclipse will essentially travel across the far northern tip of California (think Eureka/Siskiyou Mountains), then move southeast through about Reno, Nevada, then cut across the northeastern tip of Arizona, through Albuquerque and into near Lubbock, Texas, where by then, the sun will be setting partially eclipsed on the low horizon.

(I'm very eager to see how that might look -- imagine a glorious sunset with all its colors with the sun partially eclipsed! I'm sure many photographers will be at the ready.)

Up here in the Northwest, we'll get more of a traditional partial solar eclipse where the moon will eat up about 75% of the sun. For the Seattle metro area, the show will begin just after 5 p.m. in the western sky (260 degrees) with peak eclipse time roughly 6:17-6:19 p.m., and the show ends at 7:25 p.m. as the sun is just 11 degrees above the horizon -- about an hour before our sunset.

These times generally work across Western Washington, give or take a couple of minutes. (You can compute your exact city at the U.S. Naval Observatory Site.)

Here is a good video with more information on the eclipse itself, and more importantly, how to view it - (Remember what your mom always told you: Never look directly at the sun! Even when it's eclipsed!)

Is this all for naught?

Now that we know the why, where, and when, how about the "if"?

The way forecasting models are trending, all those paragraphs I just wrote are looking for naught, because it, sadly, looks quite cloudy here on Sunday afternoon.

In fact, clouds are expected to cover much of the Pacific Northwest, even down into Northern California's peak viewing area. Here is a forecast model showing expected cloud cover at 5 p.m. on Sunday:



If you're looking for where to go - start at Reno on the path and go southeast from there.

Or, you can watch the event online.

What we might notice instead is some unusual darkening of the skies around 6 p.m. on Sunday. If we do get lucky -- perhaps the overcast will thin enough to see a filtered eclipse -- and you manage to get some photos or video, we'd love to see it. You can post it on our YouNews page or email it to us at weather@komo4news.com

And we'll be sure to be providing updates on Twitter @ScottsKOMO and on Facebook.

Just had to add this in

The on-air weather team at our sister station KBAK in Bakersfield, California -- in a much better spot to see the eclipse -- decided to honor the occasion with a music video, starring Miles Muzio, Aaron Perlman and Anthony Bailey.