Total solar eclipse will have surprising effects on animals, weather

By Brian Lada,
The moon eclipses the sun during a total solar eclipse at the AURA Cerro Tololo Observatory near La Serena, Chile on July 2, 2019. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
1 of 3 | The moon eclipses the sun during a total solar eclipse at the AURA Cerro Tololo Observatory near La Serena, Chile on July 2, 2019. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

On April 8, millions of people across North America will witness day turn to night as the moon blocks out the light from the sun, but there will be more to the celestial spectacle than many think.

While most people focus their attention on the sun and the moon, people's surroundings will change during the height of the eclipse, known as totality.

The probability of clouds on Airl 8, 2024, based on the historical average of cloud cover.

Subtle differences may be noticed in areas that only experience a partial solar eclipse, but much more significant changes will take place along the narrow path from Mexico to Canada where the total solar eclipse is visible.

While everyone's attention will be focused on the sky, looking down can reveal another scene that not many have experienced.

A panorama of the sunset appearing on the horizon during the height of the Great American Eclipse in 2017. Photo courtesy of AccuWeather

Spectators who look at the horizon during totality will witness the colors of sunrise and sunset around them in every direction.

This 360-degree sunset effect is caused by the light from the sun in areas outside the path of totality and only lasts as long as the sun is completely blocked by the moon.

As the moon causes day to turn to night, the darkness will reveal the stars in the sky, as well as a few planets.

People shouldn't waste too much time looking for planets and constellations since these can be seen at night during different parts of the year. However, the eclipse will make it easy to spot Venus and Jupiter, which will be in a similar area of the sky as the sun on April 8.

The celestial alignment will also reveal the corona, the area of hot gas that surrounds the sun.

A few lucky spectators may even be fortunate enough to see a meteor streak across the sky during the brief period of darkness.

One of the rare phenomena to look for during the total solar eclipse is shadow bands.

"Shadow bands are thin, wavy lines of alternating light and dark that can be seen moving and undulating in parallel on plain-colored surfaces immediately before and after a total solar eclipse," NASA said.


Some people also call these shadow snakes since their wavy motion can look like snakes slithering on the ground.

This phenomenon does not happen during every eclipse, so it's not a guarantee that onlookers will see them on April 8. If they do appear, they will only be seen in the moment before and immediately following totality.

Shadow bands are dim and challenging to capture on camera, so folks who hope to see them should place a white poster board or bed sheet on the ground at their viewing site. They may even appear on snow-covered ground if wintry weather occurs along part of the path of totality in the days leading up to the eclipse.

Not only will the eclipse cause the environment to appear different, but it will also feel different.

"When sunlight fades at twilight, we always notice how things start to cool down. The same is true for the temporary dimming during a total solar eclipse," NASA explained.

Depending on factors such as the time of year, cloud cover and the length of totality, the air temperature can drop more than 20 degrees F. During a solar eclipse in 1834, the air temperature in Gettysburg, Pa., reportedly dropped by 28 degrees Fahrenheit.


Astronomers aren't expecting the temperature to drop as much in April compared to the 2017 eclipse, which took place in the summer, but people may still feel the temperature drop during and immediately following the celestial alignment.

The sudden darkness during the middle of the day can play a trick on animals, and depending on what types of creatures and critters are around during April's eclipse, onlookers may be able to see the strange animal behaviors for themselves.

In a study conducted after the 2017 Great American Eclipse, researchers at Cornell University and the University of Oxford found that "birds had become confused" in the moments before totality due to the change in sunlight.

Chickens may think that the eclipse is the sudden onset of the night and look for a place to roost, followed by daybreak, which could spur them to look for food, as most chickens eat in the morning.

Crickets will also start chirping around the height of the eclipse. However, this phenomenon may not be pronounced this year since the eclipse occurs in the spring compared to the Great American Eclipse, which took place in the summertime.

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