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Solar eclipse 2012: Will clouds ruin viewing of solar eclipse?

May 19, 2012 |  7:00 am


SE2012May20AWhat will the weather be like for the solar eclipse?

The forecast looks generally promising for California and much of the southwestern United States -- which will have  prime views of the "ring of fire" solar eclipse, AccuWeather.com senior meteorologist John Feerick said.

But for some areas getting a view of the partial, crescent shaped eclipse late Sunday, clouds could be a problem -- including in Washington state, Oregon, eastern New Mexico, eastern Colorado and parts of the South and Midwest, according to AccuWeather.com. The web site put together a map of the national cloud-cover forecast.

In Southern California, eclipse fans should be aware that the coast will probably be partly cloudy, which could ruin what will be the best solar eclipse -- partial or otherwise -- that L.A. could see until 2071.

"Anywhere on the coastal plains is probably going to be partly cloudy," said Stuart Seto, weather specialist for the National Weather Service office in Oxnard.

Seto advised traveling to the valleys or anywhere further inland, away from the low clouds that hang over the coast. "Of course, the mountains will probably be the best," Seto said. Just make sure that you have an unobstructed, preferably elevated, view of the northwest horizon, said Griffith Observatory director Ed Krupp.

But there's still a chance that the coast could be clear. Seto said viewers on the beaches will "be able to tell around 3 or 4 o'clock" if the clouds will clear up, giving them time to head inland for the eclipse, which will begin around 5:24 p.m. and reach its maximum shadow around 6:38 p.m. in Los Angeles.

Feerick, the forecaster at AccuWeather.com, said he suspects the coastal locations could see the eclipse, but added: "If you want to be safe, going inland is the way to go."

The weather prospects were shaky for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, which are in the middle of monsoon season.

The Hong Kong Observatory forecasts clouds with a few rain patches early Monday morning. It'll be particularly difficult viewing the eclipse in Hong Kong because the best part of the eclipse, where the moon obscures all but the sun's outer ring, happens just before sunrise between 6:06 and 6:10.

That is when the sun is just 5 degrees above the horizon -- and there are few spots in Hong Kong with unobstructed views of the northeastern horizon.

Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau forecast rain for Monday. And clouds could also be a problem in parts of Japan.

The Hong Kong Observatory is webcasting the eclipse starting at 5:41 a.m. Monday local time (2:41 p.m. Sunday Pacific time).

In Japan, Panasonic is sending a team to climb Mount Fuji to film and broadcast the "ring of fire" solar eclipse. The team will begin broadcasting its climb to the top of the mountain on Saturday at 3 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, or Sunday at 7 a.m. Japan Standard Time.

More webcasts can be found here at MSNBC.

Tweet your plans and photos to @latimes or @lanow with the hashtag #LATeclipse, or share your eclipse experience on our Facebook page. Let us know how your vantage point is. We'll be compiling the best reader moments from the evening.


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-- Rong-Gong Lin II

 Photo: A partial eclipse of the sun silhouettes palm trees on the grounds of Sky Pilot Temple in Pomona Christmas morning in 2000. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times