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Edward Dumas: Understanding the eclipse

For Edward Dumas, the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017 was an experience he will never forget.

“I was struck by how dramatic it was,” said Dumas, ORAU computer programmer and small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) pilot. “It was extremely unusual to have the path of totality pass over a majority of the United States.”

Edward Dumas: Understanding the eclipse
Edward Dumas
ORAU computer programmer and small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) pilot

During the rare solar event, Dumas flew an sUAS to measure air temperatures as part of the ORAU team with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Air Resources Laboratory, Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division. On farmland near Ten Mile, Tennessee, which was ideally located within the line of totality, they conducted experiments on seven flights, beginning at the start of the partial eclipse, one and a half hours prior to totality, and continuing until one and a half hours after totality.

The sUAS was equipped to measure air temperature and pressure and relative humidity using two small sensors. Infrared cameras attached below the aircraft measured the Earth’s surface temperature.

“Weather was pristine, with a few cumulus clouds visible about two hours before totality. These dissipated into completely clear skies within 45 minutes of totality. The rapid changes of light, weirdly shaped shadows and the stunning image of the sun’s corona marked this as one of the most unique science experiments and sUAS flights,” said Dumas.

The research tested the ability of computer models to predict the rapid changes in air temperature, moisture and the Earth’s surface temperature as the sun was obscured during the totality.

Dumas shared findings of this research at the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting in January 2018 in Austin, Texas. Findings were published in the August 2018 issue of EOS, a publication of the American Geophysical Union, in the article “Great American Eclipse Data May Fine-tune Weather Forecasts.”