The Weather Network – Benjamin Franklin’s observations on the advanced meteorology of an “eclipse hurricane”


This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast from Chris Mei of The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how the weather affects them.

The severe storm that hit what was then the American colonies on November 2, 1743 was a bit unusual – it may have been a late-season hurricane or a powerful mid-latitude cyclone. But whatever its nature, this storm played an outsized role in the expansion of meteorological science.

The storm is known as an “eclipse hurricane,” hitting the night of a lunar eclipse. Its clouds thwarted famed scholar and scientist Benjamin Franklin’s eclipse-watching efforts from Philadelphia, and he seemed to have comforted himself by focusing his talents on the hurricane instead.

At first he thought the storm was coming from the northeast and assumed his brother in Boston had been similarly deprived of the eclipse. But to his surprise, he found his brother had a clear view of the eclipse, and the storm didn’t hit until hours later.

Intrigued, Franklin concluded that the storm had moved in the opposite direction to the surface findings. Without satellites or a network of nationwide weather stations, it was difficult for him to test this hypothesis, but he succeeded: when another hurricane reached the east coast of the colonies in October 1749, he was able to trace its passage to the help of newspaper accounts of the communities on its passage.

With these observations, this “eclipse hurricane” led scientists to an important breakthrough: rather than being driven by surface winds, the storms had wind circulations independent of the actual movement and direction of the storm, a theory that would be refined in the following century. .

For more on “The Overshadowed Hurricane,” listen to today’s episode of “This Day In Weather History.”

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