With eclipse just a week away, how's the weather looking? Eh....
SEATTLE -- As we stand one week from the big total solar eclipse, it's the one day even the rain fans are probably wishing the clouds will stay away.
But early indications are that hopeful eclipse viewers will have to cross their fingers, as there are some potential clouds in the forecast.
The eclipse begins just after 9 a.m. next Monday with the peak of the eclipse around 10:20 a.m. in Western Washington. It won't be a total eclipse here -- we're just a bit too far north -- but the sun will still be around 88-94% obscured (greater coverage the farther south you go. Seattle proper is about 92 percent.)
First a disclaimer -- this is obviously a forecast for seven days away and that means there's plenty of time for the forecast to change. And the forecast models have not been terribly consistent yet, leaving confidence in any specific forecast on the low side. But we're getting asked the question quite a bit, and now that we're a week away, we felt it's apropos to at least give initial trends.
And those initial trends suggest Seattle could be dealing with a routine marine layer next Monday morning and it would be a race between how quick it can burn off before we can see the sun.
To that effect, the European Forecast ensemble model, which runs a model 52 times with slightly tweaked variables, has estimated at this point Seattle will have a sky that is roughly 60 percent obscured by clouds:
That's about exactly on par with what Seattle's general climate says it should be on August 21 around that time frame, which would make sense because the pattern looks like a very typical August 21st Seattle day -- morning clouds, then some sun with highs in the mid-upper 70s.
But it seems there's always a monkey wrench lurking in the forecast, and other predictions have also toyed with the idea of a weak cold front approaching around that time. Models as of now suggest the timing of the front will safely wait until late Monday night or Tuesday but this far out, it's something to keep in mind as well -- one model from Monday morning is now showing a potential high cloud layer reaching Western Washington and Western Oregon ahead of that front during eclipse time.
What does look pretty certain is we will not be in a stretch of crystal clear weather like we've been experiencing much of the last eight weeks. (Because: Washington?)
What about the typically sunnier spots?
Most people who are desperate to see the eclipse have already made travel plans to head into Oregon to see the eclipse in totality, with Eastern Oregon being a popular spot as the Cascades provide a natural barrier to the marine layer.
So far, that appears to be a wise choice. Current trends suggest the marine layer will stay away from Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington. The Euro ensembles have averaged out to about a 25-40 percent sky cover number for Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington -- some probably thinking that front might get here a little earlier. But so far, the majority of the models say it looks favorable.
As for those in western Oregon: The Euro model thinks Portland will have the same marine layer challenge as Seattle and pegs the Rose City at 50-60 percent. Newport, Oregon -- the first city to see the eclipse, is currently forecast at 60 percent cloud cover at 5 a.m. but 40 percent at 11 a.m. -- also showing a gradually-retreating marine layer.
So to recap:
Leading Scenario At This Point One Week Away: Northwestern Oregon and Western Washington are racing a typical summer morning marine layer burnoff, which would make for a nail-biter. Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington are looking pretty good as of right now.
Worst case scenario/Lesser likely scenario at this point: That front that is predicted to be currently lurking off the coast next Monday comes inland earlier than expected. Or at least brings in a high cloud layer west of the Cascades as it approaches. Even so, Eastern Oregon would benefit from being the farthest away, which could mean critical bonus time before clouds arrive.