Solar Eclipse Radiosonde Launch Project

Faculty Sponsor

Adam Stepanek


Arts and Sciences



Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-3-2018


On August 21, 2017, the United States experienced a total solar eclipse from coast to coast for the first time in 38 years. This event provided a unique opportunity to study the vertical profile of the atmosphere during the duration of a solar eclipse through the deployment of instrumented balloons capable of measuring temperature, wind speed and direction, and humidity. Six students and three faculty members from Valparaiso University worked in cooperation with the University of Montana in an effort to coordinate radiosonde launches across the path of totality in North America. Four launches were conducted in Coulterville, Illinois measuring the state of the atmosphere before, during, and after the event. Goals of this project centered on the eclipse’s impact on temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, and wind variations from the surface to the middle of the troposphere. Key discoveries include a decrease in both surface temperature and dew point coincident with an increase in wind speed, particularly during and after eclipse totality. Temperature was measured in ten minute intervals with an eclipse-driven minimum temperature observed two minutes after totality. Winds near the surface continually increased between the first and third launches while a slight decrease was measured after the fourth launch. It is hypothesized the fluctuations in wind speed are a consequence of temperature changes within the boundary layer.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

The authors for this project include six undergraduate students and one faculty member who worked in conjunction with the University of Montana. The goals for this project were to assist in atmospheric data collection during a total solar eclipse for a nationwide project while also providing research experience and skills for the students involved. The observed data is currently going through a base analysis with the potential future goal to examine the data more thoroughly. Interest for this project stemmed from the relevance to meteorology as well as the project's focus on a rare and fascinating solar event. Since a total solar eclipse is not a frequent event in the U.S., collecting data during one improves the scientific community’s understanding on a variety of information surrounding it.

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