GSD's great eclipse effort

GSD staff gather to check out the eclipse.

August 21, 2017

NOAA/ESRL/GSD, CIRES, and CIRA staff pulled off a feat to model the weather impacts of the eclipse and share the results in real-time with the public. This was a monumental task requiring quick execution of many steps, so we wanted to thank the team that made it happen!

Support for this effort came from Modelers, IT Staff, Outreach, and Verification.


Scientists at GSD used an algorithm developed at the University of Barcelona to incorporate the amount of solar obscuration and solar-radiation decrease. GSD modelers tested and then implemented the code into GSD’s experimental real-time HRRR weather model (HRRRx).

The model called for cooler temperatures from the eclipse of 3-7°C (5-12°F) within the umbra (the region of full shadow/totality) and up to 4°C (7°F) in the surrounding penumbra (the region of partial eclipse). Results: HRRR in operations had an average 2-2.5 C warm bias for 2m temperature for 3h and 12h forecasts valid for 17z-19z over the eastern (and central) US. HRRRx correctly caught the eclipse cooling with a bias of less than 0.5 C. So - the algorithm was a success!

Images of the NCEP model on the left and the ESRL/GSD model on the right.
Images from the HRRR-NCEP and HRRR-ESRL

The following is a list of individuals who worked to make this a success:

  • Joe Olson - Lead modeler
  • Curtis Alexander - Assimilation Development Branch Chief
  • Michael Toy - Modeler
  • James Kenyon - Modeler
  • Stan Benjamin - GSD Sr. Scientist
  • John Brown - Modeler

IT Staff

Website and data storage

Special arrangements were made with Amazon by the NOAA Web Operations Center to use CloudFront for the landing page for the eclipse website to help handle the load. While interactive model graphic content remained on servers at ESRL for technical reasons, the interaction and support from Amazon helped GSD understand the possibilities for future efforts that can leverage these services. This effort took focused dedication from the IT team to accomplish the transition in a short period of time. The website logged 5653 Unique Users, 7112 Sessions, 233 Peak users per hour and 3 spikes in traffic - Sunday 2 PM, Sunday 8 PM, Monday 6 through 8 AM.

This is a list of folks involved divided into levels of involvement. Tier 1 identifies staff who worked the most outside of normal working hours, through Tier 4 that includes staff who deserve to be mentioned:

  • Tier 1
    • Sameka McNeil (NOAA Web Operation Center) -- Overall lead coordinator with Amazon, Tech
    • Jebb Stewart (Web Page guru) -- GSD Lead Coordinator
  • Tier 2
    • David Hagerty (NginX Developer and Security)
  • Tier 3
    • Shannon Johnston (Security and Web Config)
    • Alex Hsia (B-NOC networking rep.)
    • Tino Tran (Amazon Troubleshooting)
    • Randy Barnett (GSD IT Operations Mgr.)
    • John Kellar (Amazon)
  • Tier 4 - Bill Moninger (ADB Web Developer)
    • Gary Fisher (EMB/ITS System Admin)
    • Bob Lipschutz (Data Services)
    • Jennifer Valdez (GSD Webmaster)
    • Eugene Burger (OAR Cloud rep. and PMEL SITM)
    • Cameron Shelton (NOAA Web Operation Center-Lead)
    • Don Robinson (Amazon)
    • Mike Vrencur (ATO System Admin)
    • Peter Lannigan (ITS Storage)


NOAA communicators wrote web stories for the NOAA Research site and GSD. Links were posted on Facebook (8000 reached and 2100 views) and Twitter (300 retweets on Stan Benjamin’s tweet). In the media, we followed these stories:

The Today Show (NBC) - toward the end of the clip

Image of the eclipse "path of totality" from the NBC clip
Image from the NBC eclipse coverage

Ten Surprises For Scientists And Skywatchers During The Total Solar Eclipse - Forbes

Forecasters put the total solar eclipse into a weather model and the result is amazing - Mashable

The eclipse will be cool - literally. NOAA predicts Northwest temps could drop 3-6 degrees - KOMO Seattle

Solar Eclipse Weather: what to expect, opportunity for research - IB Times

Personal Eclipse Weather: Impacts on the Atmosphere - Weather Underground - Cat6

Outreach staff:

  • Theo Stein - NOAA Boulder Public Affairs
  • Susan Cobb - GSD Communications


GSD’s Dave Turner reported that the Department of Energy Southern Great Plains site was collecting data during the eclipse. The SGP site, near Lamont, OK has instrument platforms that includes radiometers, radars, lidars, surface meteorological instrumentation, aerosol instrumentation, a total sky imager, ceilometer, and radiosondes. These data, and data collected by the NWS and NSSL’s mobile lab will be used to verify HRRRx forecasts. Dave Turner

For more information contact: Susan Cobb 303-497-5093