Witnessing the Moon cover the Sun should be spectacular. And if it is a totality, it might just be a once-in-a-lifetime experience! But let’s say you were unaware of the eclipse; now that might probably be a little confusing. 

Astronomers from all over the planet are interested in eclipse-induced variations in solar radiation and planetary reactions. 

For starters, throughout such celestial events, the disruption of the thermal equilibrium along the supersonic speeds of the Moon’s silhouette could cause gravitational waves, resulting in a drop in the ozone layer density in the stratosphere.

Experts are attempting to figure out how our planet’s complex and interrelated environment reacts to space climate variabilities like solar eclipse and solar flares, disrupting transmission communications technology pathways, route planning, and positional awareness. Hence, the short answer is, yes, an eclipse affects the Earth’s environment.

What is an eclipse?

Learn all the types of eclipses
Learn all the types of eclipses | Image Credit – Britannica

A total eclipse is a rare occurrence that provides spectators on Earth with breathtaking visual impacts. 

As the moon orbits in front of the Sun and absolutely conceals it, it creates a shadowing on the globe, engulfing parts of it into sheer blackness that appears like nightfall in the middle of the day. What exactly is the explanation of this exceptional occurrence?

To achieve a total solar eclipse, multiple events must happen simultaneously. The Moon must be the precise, appropriate size to obscure the Sun for an eclipse. 

The Sun, Moon, and Earth must align in a horizontal path, or as close as possible, with the Moon in between Sun and Earth. Lastly, we must be positioned in the appropriate location on Earth to witness the total eclipse.

As often as every 18 months, the Sun, Moon, and Earth movements draw the three entities into a perfect position. 

Those are the periods when eclipses are most likely to occur. When the moon orbits in front of the Sun in the daytime, it casts a fractional silhouette known as penumbra on Earth. 

The Sun’s light is completely covered during the eclipse, and the Moon creates a full dark spot called the umbra. 

While eclipses occur on a continuous basis, the line of totality is so narrow that only a few folks have ever witnessed a total solar eclipse.

Solar Eclipse Changes Earth’s Temperature

Temperatures will drop progressively as the eclipse commences, then dramatically as “totality” strikes. 

Temperatures plummet throughout the 2-3 minute interval of totality, hitting their rock bottom. Weather chills during solar eclipses are similar to those that unfold every day between afternoon and dusk. 

Rather than temperatures dropping as a result of the setting sun, the air loses heat as the Moon blankets 100% of the Sun’s surface and shields sunlight momentarily. 

This cooling, however, is much faster, taking only minutes rather than the hours that it usually requires.

As per NASA expertise, ambient temperatures can drop by 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit throughout a solar eclipse. 

This temperature varies by region and seasonality. Temperature readings reportedly dropped by as much as 28 degrees throughout the total solar eclipse of 1834. 

Temperature fluctuations will be less dramatic if you are not in the zone of the totality of any eclipse, as some of the Sun’s radiation would still be obscured. 

You will notice a minor reduction in average air temperatures. Conversely, if only half of the Moon covers the Sun during peak hours in your area, the weather will typically only drop by a degree or two.

Eclipse wind is a reality!

The ‘eclipse wind’ is a shift in wind patterns caused by the Moon momentarily blocking out the Sun, but astronomers have indeed been stumped as to what triggers it until recently. 

The Earth starts to cool when the Sun sets behind the Moon, much like it does at dusk. As the cooling of the air by the Earth’s crust increases, heated air ceases ascending from the bottom, prompting a dip in wind velocity and a swing in the direction of the wind.

When the Sun warms the Earth, it forms “hot spots,” or areas where the Earth overheats faster than neighboring surfaces. 

Hot air rises and decreases air pressure through these hot spot locations since it is “lightweight” or much less dense than cold air. 

The more dense air adjacent exerts more strain on the colder nearby surface. According to weather research, air flows from high-pressure areas to low-pressure areas. 

Meaning, in an effort to balance these two variables, air flows from the cooler regions to the “hot spots,” causing eclipse wind.

On the other hand, the hot regions don’t become as heated throughout an eclipse since there isn’t as much solar radiation to warm them up. 

Because the temperature and pressure in both sites are approximately identical, the air will not rush as quickly across them, and the winds will not blow as violently.

Formation of bow waves in Earth’s atmosphere

The ionosphere is a domain of Earth’s atmosphere primarily composed of energetic ions spawned by solar energy. 

This layer enables protracted radio signal transmission and telecommunication over the skyline, and it has an impact on critical satellite-based communications in location tracking instruments and onboard airplanes. 

Proper understanding of the ionosphere, which is the medium through which radio signals flow, is susceptible to solar changes’ impacts. Such radio frequencies are critical for our latest computing culture. 

The ionosphere is home to a tremendous amount of naturally produced waves, ranging in size and power from microscopic to vast, and eclipse shadows can spawn a massive share of new waves as they move across the globe.

Ionospheric bow waves, one such variety among the new waves, have been expected to emerge in the aftermath of an eclipse crossing for more than 40 years. Such waves heavily impact satellite-based transmissions.

Clouds Dissipated

Dissipated Clouds
Dissipated Clouds | Image Credit – Pixabay

The 2017 Great American Solar Eclipse was among the most well-documented total solar eclipses in humanity’s civilization, and a number of unusual occurrences marked it. Clouds dispersed all over the Carolinas as the temperature dropped drastically. 

The majority of the cloud formations were thin cumulonimbus clouds generated by the warmth of humid conditions. 

The clouds were first fueled by hours of Sun and heavy precipitation in the vicinity, but the clouds could not keep up when the warmth faded. 

These superficial clouds never rebounded, while deeper raindrops and self-sustaining thunder were slightly impacted.

Effects on humidity

In the 40 minutes preceding totality in the United States, research by the University of Reading detected a 20 percent growth in relative humidity. 

When temperatures remained highest and the atmosphere driest, a substantial rise in humidity was observed. 

As per the scientists, a tremendous increase in humidity occurred across the plains, particularly in Wyoming. 

A slight increase in humidity was observed in the humid Southeast as temperatures approached the dew point.

Influence on seawater

Sea Water is influenced by Eclipses
Sea Water is influenced by Eclipses | Image Credit – Pixabay

During historic total and partial solar eclipses, scientists performed various tests to determine probable radioactive isotopes hitting the planet’s surface and the influence of such radiation in saltwater. 

The empirical findings showed that the solar eclipse phenomena influence the pH value of the sea given the short spectrum radiations absorbed by the ground atmosphere, and this is the first occasion that the fluctuation in pH value of saltwater under solar eclipse has been investigated. 

During total and annular eclipses, the distinction between regular water and saltwater is reduced by about 20% and 40%, correspondingly.

Animal life

Animals get perplexed during Eclipses
Animals get perplexed during Eclipses | Image Credit – Amol Mande

Although human civilization has long been perplexed by eclipses, other creatures must still find them strange, specifically if they happen to be in the pathway of totality. 

Few published research have adequately explored their responses, there are many anecdotal stories of wildlife, domesticated animals, and pets appearing to be fooled or puzzled by the solar eclipse.

A total solar eclipse has been observed to make many wild creatures act as if it were a sudden daytime night. “The birds act as if the sun’s departure indicates nightfall and its reappearance implies dawn in time-lapse,” ornithologist Wolfgang Fiedler of the Max Planck Institute informs German media outlet, Deutsche Welle.

Solar eclipses are sometimes mistaken for nightfall by nocturnal animals. Cicadas and toads may join in a twilight symphony, while bugs and moths may begin to buzz in the dark. 

And during a total solar eclipse, it can be sufficiently dark to calm daytime creatures and bring out the night creatures. 

There have been numerous instances of nocturnal animals, such as bats and owls, being alert throughout totality.

To Conclude

Gray and Black Moon
Gray and Black Moon | Image Credit – Soumen Maity

Since all our gaze will be drawn to the heavens, glancing below may offer a spectacle that few have seen before. 

During totality, onlookers who stare at the horizon will see the hues of dawn and dusk everywhere across them. 

The radiation from the Sun in regions beyond the route of totality causes this 360-degree twilight impression, which only lasts about as long as the Moon obscures the Sun’s disk.

A total solar eclipse is observable from anywhere on the Earth’s surface about once every 18 months on average. 

In every three years, there are two totalities. The effect of the solar eclipse on the Earth’s environment is concise and more often not experienced by us all; it is very evident that it affects the Earth’s natural atmosphere. 

What exactly are the chances of a lunar eclipse affecting the environment? To answer in short, unless you are on the Moon itself, lunar eclipses do not affect the Earth’s environment.

(Also read How does Glowing Moon Affect Earth and Humans?)

Shradha Bhatta holds a Bachelors’s Degree in Social Work along with a Post-graduate degree in Project Management from Georgian College in Canada. Shradha enjoys writing on a variety of topics and takes pleasure in discovering new ideas. She likes traveling and spending time with nature. She is a very people-person who loves talking about climate change and alerting people to go green!