Cloudy skies obscure solar eclipse in much of Europe | News | DW | 20.03.2015
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Cloudy skies obscure solar eclipse in much of Europe

A solar eclipse - Europe's first since 1999 - wowed people in northern latitudes but failed to impress many in Europe whose view was hindered by gloomy weather. Scientists say a "supermoon" will bring strong tides

Thousands of people had flocked to the far-north archipelago of Svalbard or the Faroe Islands in the north Atlantic.

Sigrun Skalagard, in the northern parts of the Faeroes, said birdlife went silent and dogs started howling skyward. "Some people were surprised to see how fast it became dark," she told the AFP news agency.

But others further south were unlucky as rainy conditions obscured the sky.

"It was overcast, there was rain and wind. You could see nothing. It was a disappointment for everybody," said Gabor Lantos, a Hungarian visitor in Torshavn.

Twitter trends were dominated by the eclipse, with seven of the top 10 related to the moon and sun in Germany whose electrical grid was able to weather the drop in solar power production throughout the 2-1/2-hour event.

Some 6 percent of Germany's electricity is produced by solar.

The initial 13 gigawatts (GW) drop in production was less than technicians in Germany had feared. By drawing on alternative sources including gas, hydroelectric and coal, no major disruptions were reported.

The next total eclipse that will be seen from the European continent won't be until Aug. 12, 2026. But another unique event is expected Friday with a "supermoon" in which the moon reaches its closest point in its orbit with the earth.

This event - coupled with the moon's alignment with the sun - will strengthen lunar gravitational pull on the oceans to create strong tides.

Scientists project that tides will increase the most along the France's Atlantic shoreline, Canada's Bay of Fundy and the North Sea and English Channel.

Saturday's tide will be several centimeters (inches) above last year's record. Weather will also be a factor on the tide's height and gale-force winds could cause the pounding surf to break over sea walls in the Netherlands and Britain, said Kevin Horsburgh, head of the Marine Physics and Ocean Climate research group at Britain's National Oceanography Centre.

"A storm surge can elevate water levels by around four meters in the North Sea on the Dutch coast and tend on the east coast of Britain and the Thames estuary to be around two, two-and-a-half meters in the event of a bad storm," Horsburgh told AFP.

jar/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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