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ULM Atmospheric Science students and faculty travel to Ark. to experience eclipse totality

Published April 11, 2024


CAPTION: ULM Atmospheric Science students traveled to Cabot, Ark. to experience the totality of the solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. Photo credit: Zach Hardcastle

MONROE, LA – ULM Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science Dr. Todd Murphy and students in the ULM Atmospheric Science program traveled to Cabot, Ark., on Monday, April 8, to locate in the path of totality for an atmospheric boundary layer experiment during the total solar eclipse. ULM was one of multiple atmospheric science groups in the field on Monday within the path collecting measurements on how the abrupt decrease in solar radiation would impact the lower part of the atmosphere called the boundary layer.

Initially planning to locate in northeast Texas, cloud cover forecasts began to worry the atmospheric scientists on Friday and Saturday. Student Zach Hardcastle offered his family’s property in Cabot as a potential experiment site, given they were in the path and cloud cover forecast across central Arkansas was more favorable. It ended up being a great decision as the skies were mostly clear across Arkansas leading to perfect eclipse viewing and excellent data collection.

Preliminary data analyses show an 8-10° temperature decrease during totality and a decrease in surface winds. In addition, ULM’s National Science Foundation funded Doppler wind LiDAR showed an abrupt collapse of the boundary layer circulations that are normally present when the sun is out. The ULM students launched three weather balloons during the event.

According to Dr. Murphy, “Experiencing totality was a top lifetime experience. It’s hard to describe the feeling and view in the moments just before, as everything surrounding you loses color saturation, and the air immediately cools with the decreasing sunlight. I’m excited to dig into the data we collected.”

Atmospheric Science student Alec Soileau remarked “This eclipse was truly an awe-inspiring event that is beyond words. One of the best events of my life.”

Eclipse Students

CAPTION:The group of Atmospheric Science students and Dr. Todd Murphy.