GLOBE Research Ideas


A solar eclipse provides a unique opportunity for scientists to study the effects of the Sun’s radiation on the Earth’s surface. Dr. Suzanne Gray, from the University of Reading, who led a study on wind changes during a 2015 eclipse over the United Kingdom, called the event a “giant natural experiment.” Data collected by automated weather stations and citizen scientists during that eclipse showed some places experienced air temperature drops of up to 3° Celsius at the height of the eclipse. (Check out the National Eclipse Weather Experiment at the University of Reading for more on that study, or see a paper on the citizen science efforts here.)

Image credit: This image was constructed from data collected by the National Eclipse Weather Experiment, found here.
Figure 1. The top panels show the difference between observed* and modeled temperature over the United Kingdom on March 20, 2015. Below is the solar irradiance at the surface over the period immediately before, during, and just after the eclipse. The eclipse occurred at 09:30 local time, well after the sunrise, and temperature drops were noted across the region as the solar irradiance dropped. Once the eclipse was over, irradiance began to rise towards its daily maximum and temperatures began to recover.
*Observed temperatures before the eclipse were higher than predicted--this is most likely because many citizen observers made their temperature measurements in direct sunlight, which the GLOBE protocol instructs students not to do.

There’s no limit to the number of research questions you could ask on topics ranging from animal behavior and soil surface temperature changes to air temperature and its connections to regional weather. We strongly suggest you discuss your research ideas on our eclipse discussion board, but we’ve also provided a few examples of protocols likely to show effects from the eclipse in the section below.


Did you know -- The GLOBE citizen science mobile app, GLOBE Observer, will have a special option to record air and surface temperature on the days before, after, and during the eclipse. The app will tell you what time the eclipse will occur at your location, and will provide you with a pre-made datasheet for the data you collect. It will even prompt you to make measurements at timed intervals directly before, during, and after the eclipse.

 


Maximum, Minimum, and Current Temperature (pdf) 

Students can measure current air temperature using a thermometer held in the open air but in the shade for at least three minutes. 

Learning Activity

 


Surface Temperature Protocol (pdf) 

Students can measure the temperature of the Earth’s surface using an infrared thermometer (IRT). Do you think different surface types heat or cool at different rates?

 Learning Activity

 


Relative Humidity Protocol (pdf)

Students can measure the relative humidity using either a digital hygrometer or a sling psychrometer. Why would you expect relative humidity to increase as temperatures decrease? Hint: take a closer look at the definition of relative humidity. How does it differ from absolute humidity?

Learning Activity

 


Clouds Protocol (pdf) 

Students can observe which types of clouds and how many of three types of contrails are visible, how much of the sky is covered by clouds (other than contrails), and how much is covered by contrails. How do you think changes in relative humidity affect clouds?

Learning Activity

 


Wind Direction Instrument Construction Protocol (pdf)

Students can observe changes in wind direction using an instrument constructed from common materials. Will you see the ‘eclipse winds?’

(Note that the linked protocol also contains instructions for the construction of an ozone monitoring shelter; these instructions can be ignored for eclipse experiments.)