Tropical Storm During a Total Solar Eclipse Would Be a First in Satellite Era

Jon Erdman
Published: August 19, 2017


Monday's total solar eclipse might coincide with a tropical cyclone – something we haven't seen in the Atlantic Basin in over a half-century.

(MORE: Follow our Eclipse Coverage on Twitter)

Animation illustrating the shadow from the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse. The tiny black dot indicates the location of totality migrating east-southeastward.

This upcoming eclipse is not simply a U.S. event, but will also fan out over the entire tropical North Atlantic Basin.

We're watching three separate systems in the Atlantic Ocean at this time.

(FORECAST: The Tropical Trio of Disturbances)

The westernmost one, the remnants of Tropical Storm Harvey, has a chance of regaining tropical depression status in the western Caribbean Sea by Monday. 

The two easternmost disturbances may be located near the zone of at least 75 percent coverage from near the southeast Bahamas to near or northeast of the Leeward Islands by Monday. However, the odds for development of those systems is very low during the next two days.

The next named Atlantic storm will be called "Irma".

(MORE: The Weirdest Hurricane and Tropical Storm Tracks)

So, how bizarre would this overlap of events be?

Never in the Satellite Era

There have been 81 total solar eclipses prior to the August 2017 event, in records dating to 1900. Of those, 51 occurred during what would be the Atlantic hurricane season, June through November.

However, only 18 cast a shadow on at least an appreciable stretch of the tropical Atlantic Basin where hurricanes and tropical storms roam. On average, a total solar eclipse only occurs over the tropical Atlantic Basin once every six to seven years.

(OUTLOOK: Will Weather Interfere With Your View?)

Since satellite imagery became widely available over the tropical Atlantic Basin in 1966, there has not been a case of a hurricane or tropical storm occurring as a total solar eclipse was in progress over the Atlantic Basin.

Locations of Hurricane Hannah and the remnant of what was once Hurricane Gracie during the total solar eclipse of October 2, 1959. The white line is an approximate path of totality of the eclipse.

In fact, it's only happened twice in historical records dating to 1900.

The last time this happened was Oct. 2, 1959, when Category 3 Hurricane Hannah was located just west-northwest of Bermuda, near the beginning of the eclipse. Remnants of what once was Hurricane Gracie were located near Nova Scotia, very near the track of totality of this 1959 eclipse.

(MORE: Follow Our Coverage on Twitter)

The only other total solar eclipse Atlantic Basin hurricane or tropical storm occurred Aug. 31, 1932, when a Category 1 hurricane was lurking just off the northern Gulf Coast. A tropical storm was also in progress just north of Puerto Rico during this eclipse. Neither storm was in the strip of total eclipse coverage.

The last total solar eclipse accompanied by an Atlantic tropical cyclone of any intensity was July 10, 1972, when Tropical Depression Four was just north of Grand Bahama Island.

Two other total solar eclipses had ongoing tropical depressions: Sept. 10, 1923 and Oct. 10, 1912, according to NOAA's Best Track database.

As amazing a sight as this cross-country total solar eclipse will be, the potential of the new GOES-16 satellite sampling the first Atlantic tropical storm or hurricane to occur during such an eclipse in the satellite era would certainly be exciting for meteorologists.

(MORE: 6 Subtle Ways the Weather Could Change During the Eclipse)

The next total solar eclipse will darken a large swath of the Atlantic Basin again on Aug. 12, 2026.

Jonathan Erdman is a senior meteorologist at weather.com and has been an incurable weather geek since a tornado narrowly missed his childhood home in Wisconsin at age 7. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.


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