Total solar eclipse: Will clouds dampen the rare celestial event?

Click to play video: 'Solar eclipse task force prepares for moment of truth ‘unlike any other’'
Solar eclipse task force prepares for moment of truth ‘unlike any other’
WATCH: Astronomers are describing this as a “once-in-a-lifetime event,” as anticipation builds for the total solar eclipse on Monday. Despite the years of preparation, one final question outside of the task force’s control remains: will there be cloud cover that obscures the eclipse’s visibility on the day of? Katherine Cheng reports – Apr 6, 2024

When it comes to Monday’s total solar eclipse, Sarah Rugheimer is all in.

The 40-year-old astronomy professor at York University will be hosting a viewing party at the Royal Hotel in Picton, Ont., a small town in the province’s Prince Edward County region that finds itself in the eclipse’s path of totality.

However, at the moment, Monday’s forecast is uncertain, and Rugheimer doesn’t have a back-up plan.

“I’m stuck at the Royal Hotel because that’s where I’ve committed to be,” she told Global News on Friday.

“I couldn’t fall asleep last night because I was thinking about the cloud coverage. This is my first total solar eclipse. I’m 40 years old. I’ve never seen one. I’m so excited about it, and I’m a little concerned that we will be clouded out.”

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Millions of Canadians to witness rare celestial event

Millions of Canadians in parts of the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario will get to see either a partial or total solar eclipse, depending on where they live.

Cities and towns that find themselves in the path of totality — where a complete solar eclipse will be visible — are expecting an influx of visitors. Niagara Falls, Ont., has declared a state of emergency ahead of the celestial event. It is expecting to see close to a million visitors on Monday.

Click to play video: 'What you need to know about Monday’s total solar eclipse'
What you need to know about Monday’s total solar eclipse

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon comes between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow on Earth. However, a total solar eclipse occurs when the moon perfectly aligns with the Earth and sun, completely blocking the sunlight and causing darkness for some time.

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“The moon blocking the sun is really where it’s all at. (That’s) where … darkness falls, crickets chirping and all of those weird effects (happen),” Rugheimer said.

“You don’t get this at 99 per cent. This is a 100 per cent only phenomenon.”

Click to play video: 'Niagara Region declares state of emergency ahead of eclipse'
Niagara Region declares state of emergency ahead of eclipse

These celestial events are so rare for people living in impacted regions that unless they travel to where the next total solar eclipse is, they likely won’t see it ever again.

In fact, the last time the path of a total solar eclipse crossed Canada was in 1979. After this year, the next time a total solar eclipse will be visible from Canadian soil will be in 2044, when the path of totality will pass through British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Will Mother Nature play spoiler?

Global News Chief Meteorologist Anthony Farnell said Friday some of the best viewing may actually be in eastern Ontario, southern Quebec, as well as parts of New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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However, those in southern Ontario will have a reason to feel uneasy.

“Now, if you’re in Niagara or parts of southern Ontario, it is iffy. It’s one of those days where we have this system that’s weakening as it approaches, so there’s a chance that those clouds will depart just in time for the eclipse, but there’s also a chance that it’s rather overcast and that will definitely affect the viewing experience,” he said.

“In any given spot through southern Ontario, (there’s) about a 60 to 70 per cent chance right now of it being cloudy for those minutes of totality.”

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Solar eclipse: N.B. scientist uses balloon with cameras to track rare event

Farnell added whether the eclipse will be visible during overcast depends on the type of cloud.

“Even if there is some cloud cover, you may be able to see the sun through it with high cirrus clouds — they’re made of ice crystals, so oftentimes you can see right through that,” he said.

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“It’s just the thicker, dense, rain clouds … that you don’t want to see, and there is a chance that we have that around Monday afternoon.”

If you can’t see the total solar eclipse, you will still be able to feel it, Farnell and Rugheimer explained.

When the moon completely blocks the sun, the temperature will drop a bit and wildlife will shift their behaviour to their nighttime routines for those few minutes.

“If you’re in Toronto, you won’t notice much because it’s just going to be overcast, you won’t see it get much darker. But in totality, because that darkness is much more prominent, it’s much more pronounced,” Rugheimer said.

“You’ll actually see the whole sky go dark and then light again. So even if it’s cloudy in totality, you will have something that’s weird that happens because all of a sudden it’ll be darkness and then it’ll be light again.”

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Solar eclipse behind growing list of school boards rescheduling PA day

Regardless of the weather, Farnell said the total solar eclipse will be memorable.

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“It’ll be amazing one way or another, and just being surrounded by thousands and thousands of others that are looking up at the sky and all have this basic interest that has transcended so many generations,” he said.

“It’s pretty remarkable that we’re still so interested in this phenomenon.”

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