How’s the weather looking for eclipse day?
Forecasters can’t shed much light, for now.
The National Weather Service’s seven-day forecast will, for the first time Monday afternoon, include a forecast for the big day.
Meteorologist Barbara Mayes of the National Weather Service office in Valley cautioned Friday about planning your eclipse viewing around it.
“It’s almost impossible to be completely precise about cloud cover, to the hour, seven days in advance,” Mayes said.
There’s a lot riding on clear skies Aug. 21, whether you’re throwing a watch party in the Nebraska Sand Hills, deciding whether to pull your kids from school or preparing the state’s emergency response plan.
An early outlook for eclipse week hints at a slight possibility of wetter-than-normal conditions — thus, clouds — in eastern Nebraska. The rest of Nebraska has a normal or below-normal chance of precipitation.
A patch of blue skies at one end of the state, and clouds at the other, could mean a lot of cars on the road, all heading for the same place.
“The weather is going to impact this event,” said Bryan Tuma, assistant director of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. “There’s no doubt about it.”
Tuma said cities and towns have to be ready for an influx of cars whose drivers are looking for good viewing — but also be ready for good-old Nebraska thunderstorms.
“The big concern is people’s safety if we’ve got severe thunderstorms rolling in,” Tuma said. “What are your plans for severe weather? What arrangements can you make for shelter if that’s required?”
On eclipse day, a National Weather Service forecaster will be stationed in the state emergency operations center to keep it informed of the latest, he said.
So, what can forecasters say with confidence right now?
The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center produces an 8-14 day outlook for temperature and precipitation.
The outlook is what state agencies look to when assessing fire or flood danger.
Power companies might use it to figure how much fuel they’ll need for power plants, or farmers to plan for irrigation.
It’s different from a daily forecast, which aims to pinpoint exact temperature and precipitation chances.
Mayes describes the difference this way:
“The climate outlooks might tell you how to pack a suitcase for a weeklong trip — should I put in more shorts or more pants?” she said. “The weather forecast is what you’d be looking at day to day to figure out if you’re going to wear the shorts that day or you are going to put on the pants.”
As of Friday, the outlook for Aug. 19 to 25 tilted the odds in eastern Nebraska “ever so slightly” toward a chance of above normal temperatures, Mayes said.
“It doesn’t tell us anything about what the temperatures on Aug. 21 might be, but for that whole week our odds tilt a bit toward the warmer side,” Mayes said. “Also toward the wetter side.”
For Nebraska’s midsection, the outlook was for normal precipitation and temperature. The Panhandle looked slightly below normal for both.
Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center, recommended that anxious weather-watchers keep their cool until the event gets closer.
“I wouldn’t want people to make a decision based on the information I’m providing out there,” he said.
Even as it gets closer, forecasting clouds can be “really, really challenging,” he said.
“You can have a nice sunny day, but you just get a little bit of instability and some clouds kind of bubble up, and that could obviously ruin your viewing of the eclipse,” he said. “But that’s really the nature of weather.”