In exactly five years North America will once again experience a total solar eclipse, but what happens on April 8, 2024, will put the events of August 21, 2017, firmly in the shade. No eclipse will match it until 2045.
Savvy eclipse-chasers get planning as early as possible, especially when there’s an eclipse going on in North America. After all, the 2017 total solar eclipse was one of the most watched events in human history, but the two minutes or so of totality (when the moon completely blocks the sun) on offer that day will be dwarfed in 2024. For those who didn’t see the “Great American Eclipse” of 2017, there’s not just another chance in 2024, but a chance to experience what in many ways will be a “better” eclipse … if the skies are clear.
The path of totality in 2024
The total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, will be longer, darker, and seen by many millions more people. Over four minutes of totality will be observable from under a 100-mile wide path of totality stretching from Mexico’s Pacific Coast through the U.S from Texas to Maine, and into Atlantic Canada. During the 139 minutes it’s over land the moon’s central shadow will plunge into darkness parts of Sinaloa, Durango, and Coahuila in Mexico, and in the US, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, tiny slithers of Tennessee and Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. As it moves over Lake Erie and Lake Ontario on the US-Canada border, the shadow will fall on parts of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
It’s going to be a truly great North American eclipse.
What will the weather be like?
There is one major problem with the 2024 eclipse. “It has less attractive weather prospects than 2017 – early April in the northeastern part of the country is for all practical purposes still winter,” says Dr. Rick Fienberg, Press Officer at the American Astronomical Society (AAS), who ran the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force in the run-up to August 21, 2017 (for which he received NASA’s Exceptional Public Achievement Medal. “Even though the path goes up through New York and into Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and southern Canada, I think one of our messages will be that people really should try to get further to the southwest,” says Fienberg, who predicts that on April 8, 2024, a large swathe of the path of totality across the US is likely to be cloudy. Likely, but not definitely, and in advance of the short-term weather forecasts, it’s all guesswork. “It could be the reverse and we could end up with people in Vermont seeing it and people in Texas missing it,” he says, though he suspects a lot of tour groups will go to Mexico. In the US, southern Texas is the best bet for clear skies, though they’re not guaranteed in April.
Why the 2024 eclipse will be much bigger and better than 2017
“It will be easier to prepare people for 2024 that it was for 2017,” says Fienberg. “Before the 2017 eclipse there hadn’t been any eclipse touching the US since 1979, but now tens of millions of people have seen totality and many tens of millions more have seen a partial eclipse very recently – and a lot of people will still have eclipse glasses lying around.”
2024 will be a “big city eclipse”
“The 2024 eclipse touches some very large cities so there’s the potential that even more people will see totality than in 2017,” says Fienberg. Over 30 million people live in the 2024 path of totality, three times more than in 2017, in cities like Austin and Dallas, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester, and Montreal.
“Edge cities” in 2024
Cities a short drive from totality include St. Louis, Cincinnati, Columbus, Detroit, Toronto, Ottawa, and Quebec City, but some get slashed in two by the edge of the moon’s shadow. “In San Antonio, Austin, Toledo, and Montreal you’re right on the edge, and if you’re not downtown then you’re going to miss totality,” says Mike Kentrianakis, an eclipse-chaser, filmmaker, and Project Manager on the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force in 2017. “Even if you don’t travel to the center of the path, you want at least to get totality to pop in and pop out again,” says Kentrianakis. “The corona is by far the most magnificent thing to say, it’s awe-inspiring and really shows the sun in its true colors.”
Should you go to Niagara Falls?
Perhaps the most iconic place in North America within 2024 path of totality is Niagara Falls. It’s going to be packed on both sides of the US-Canada border. However, there is a high chance of cloud during totality. “Cooling makes clouds,” says Kentrianakis, who had to escape cloud at Niagara Falls just prior to an annular solar eclipse there in 1994. “You might think you’re going to see an eclipse at the thunderous falls surrounded by the power of nature, but with a 15°F drop in temperature during totality, some pretty big clouds could form”. Kentrianakis advises having an alternative plan. “If you’re going to Niagara Falls, enjoy the city, enjoy the falls, and at eclipse time, go inland and you’ll have a much greater chance of seeing totality,” he says.
The miracle of Interstate 90
Study the maps, and the 2024 eclipse holds a secret pathway for eclipse-chasers in northern US states. “Let’s say you go to Cleveland, a great city, but on the day perhaps Erie or Buffalo have better weather prospects. There is an easy escape route,” says Kentrianakis, a New Yorker who’s excited by the prospect of New York’s first totality for 99 years. Interstate 90 runs between Rochester, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio for 259 miles along the shoreline of Lake Erie without ever deviating from the path of totality. It can be driven in its entirely in just under 4 hours. “Interstate 90 will give you valuable flexibility,” says Kentrianakis.
The 2024 eclipse will have two dress rehearsals
On October 14, 2023, just six months before 2024’s totality, an annular solar eclipse will be visible from Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and Oregon, with weather conditions again making Texas the best place in the US to see it. It occurs when a New Moon at its furthest point from Earth in its monthly orbit moves in front of the Sun, but doesn’t cover its entire disk, so looks like a “Ring of Fire” from a narrow path. “The annular solar eclipse will go across a very large swathe of the country, and it will also be a partial solar eclipse across the rest of the continent so it will require everybody to have solar eclipse glasses,” says Fienberg.
There’s also an identical event in Canada on June 10, 2021, which will effectively be a partial solar eclipse across much of the US. “So we have two opportunities to get people prepared and there will be heightened interest in eclipse for a sustained period of time,” he says. “It’s going to make it easier to get a large number of glasses into more people’s hands.”
By 2024, North American should be completely eclipse-literate just in time for one of the greatest total solar eclipses of modern times – and the longest on the continent until 2045.
Want to know where to watch the 2024 eclipse? Don’t miss my companion post detailing the best places to watch!
Disclaimer: I am the author of “The Complete Guide To The Great North American Eclipse of April 8, 2024.”
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes