Earth Science Week Classroom Activities

How Does a Solar Eclipse Affect Air Temperature?

Activity Source:

National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Adapted with permission.

Most everyone has experienced the cool relief provided by shadows and clouds on a hot day. You may have even done experiments that measure the difference in air temperature between areas with direct sunlight and areas shaded by trees or other objects. How would a solar eclipse affect air temperature?


  • Phone, tablet, or computer with internet access

Safety Note: Remember to never look directly at the Sun without proper safety equipment


  1. Go to the My NASA Data website to complete the full lesson, “How does a Solar Eclipse Affect Air Temperature?”

  2. View the Solar Eclipse Visualization image again. This diagram is not toscale. It is designed to emphasize the umbra and penumbra. Point out the umbra and penumbra in the image. Remember that light from the sun shines equally in all directions, but this image focuses on sunlight that hits Earth to highlight an eclipse event.

  3. Watch The GLOBE Air Temperature with Eclipse Shadow 2017 visualization which shows how the Moon’s shadow affected air temperature in the continental United States during the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017. The air temperature data presented in this animation were collected by citizen scientists using the GLOBE Program.

a. In the visualization, the Moon’s shadow first hits the west coast of the continental US at approximately 17:00 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time, which equates to 10:00 AM Pacific Standard Time). At approximately what time of day does the shadow reach the East Coast? How would the time of day affect the data?

b. The innermost (smallest) circle represents where a total solar eclipse was witnessed (umbra). The lighter outer circles represent the penumbra shadow. Viewers in this shadow experienced a partial solar eclipse. Viewers in the medium-sized circle would have seen the Sun obscured by 90%. Viewers in the outermost (largest) circle (also the penumbra) would have seen the Sun obscured by 50%. Outside the concentric circles viewers would experience a partial solar eclipse, but with an even smaller percentage of the Sun obscured. Do locations experiencing the total solar eclipse experience greater temperature variations than locations experiencing a partial solar eclipse? What is your evidence?


  1. Answer the analysis questions on the lesson site to interpret the data from the animation.

  2. Consider the atmospheric temperature change that occurs during an eclipse. Is it:

a. Short-term or long-term?

  • How do you know?
  • Describe another factor that could affect temperature change for this time range.

b. Regional or global?

  • How do you know?
  • Describe another factor that could affect temperature change over a similar area.


For Earth Systems Science learning activities, visit My NASA Data at


SEP :Developing and Using Models

DCI :ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System

CCC :Cause and Effect


15 :Life on Land