Microclimate at Mana Pools: effects of a total eclipse of the sun

  • J. Milford Department of Physics, University of Zimbabwe, PO Box 167, Mount Pleasant, Harare


Microclimatology is the science of measuring and predicting our immediate atmospheric environment. Within microclimatology the opportunities for controlled experiments in the open air are relatively rare, which is a problem for a physical science. However, the occasion of the total solar eclipse over northern Zimbabwe on 21 June, 2001 provided one such opportunity. At this time Wildlife and Environment Zimbabwe (WEZ) mounted an ethological experiment at Mana Pools, on the south bank of the Zambezi in northern Zimbabwe (15.7 °S, 29.4 °E). The aim was to study the reaction of wildlife to a total eclipse, with teams of two or three people making observations of different species, from bees to elephant, over the three days, 20th to 22nd June. To provide the microclimatic background to the observations of wild life, three meteorological stations were set up in the area. Air and soil temperatures, relative humidity, solar radiation, wind speed and direction, and soil heat flux were recorded over the three days and are reported in this paper. Meteorological conditions were very similar over the three days allowing some comparisons with conditions during the eclipse. Air temperature was reduced by almost 5oC during the eclipse and there was a reduction of about 1.99 MJ m-2 radiation, compared to the two days before and after the eclipse.

The Zimbabwe Science News Volume 35 (3+ 4) 2001, pp. 63-68

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eISSN: 1016-1503