Weather Scope

Notebook Top Left Corner  Enrichment Activity 4: Storm forecasting Notebook Top Right Corner
 
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Overview:
Students will track a tropical storm as it develops or evolves in the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean using real-time data information from the Internet. Students will look for connections between storm severity, air pressure and wind speed. This activity should take 5-10 minutes per day and must be done during the storm event.  It would be helpful to have a wall chart to plot the direction the storm is moving even though the path is plotted on the web site. Students can be asked to keep a daily log of their storm prediction and then each day that prediction can be reviewed and updated. Comparisons can be made to predictions made at the Weather Channel or other on local news outlets. Everyday one group could be asked to write a radio storm forecast and that could be read to the class. Students could also update a class website making a storm forecast.

It is also recommended that a concurrent recording of weather observations be maintained in class or individually including an after school observation to confirm weather that is reported and to assess weather forecasts.
 

Materials:
  • Computers with Internet access (If computer access is limited, one computer and a projector will do nicely)
  • Map of the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean

Instructions:

Storm forecasting

 

1.  Hurricane tracking
Students record the path of a tropical storm as it is forming and make predictions regarding where it will strike land, what areas are at risk and how severe it will be.

Overview

Students will track a tropical storm as it develops or evolves in the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean using real-time data information from the Internet.  Students will look for connections between storm severity, air pressure and wind speed.  This activity should take 5-10 minutes per day and must be done during the storm event.   It would be helpful to have a wall chart to plot the direction the storm is moving even though the path is plotted on the web site.  Students can be asked to keep a daily log of their storm prediction and then each day that prediction can be reviewed and updated.  Comparisons can be made to predictions made at the Weather Channel or other on local news outlets.  Everyday one group could be asked to write a radio storm forecast and that could be read to the class.  Students could also update a class website making a storm forecast.

It is also recommended that a concurrent recording of weather observations be maintained in class or individually including an after school observation to confirm weather that is reported and to assess weather forecasts.

Materials

Computers with Internet access (If computer access is limited, one computer and a projector will do nicely)
Map of the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean

Instructions

A.  Where will the tropical storm strike land?

Where will the storm strike land given it's current direction? (Give as much detail as you can:  What country?  What cities are most at risk?)
When will it strike land it's current speed?

B.  How severe will the storm be when it strikes land?

Update your observations each day.  Answer the following changes with each update:

  • What  is happening to the air pressure?
  • What is happening to the wind speed inside the storm?
  • What happens to the air pressure as the wind speed and intensity change?  Do they change at the same time?
  • Why do you think this happens?
  • What is happening to the direction the storm is moving?
  • Does the speed or direction change as the air pressure changes?  Why or why not?
  • How will changes in the last 24 hours affect the prediction for the future?
  • How widespread will the damage be based on the width of the storm?

 

 

2.  Storm tracking
Students record the path of high and low pressure systems as they are forming and make predictions regarding their future.

Objectives

Students will track high and low pressure systems that are in their region of the US in order to observe their movement and understand how they impact their weather.  Tropical storms affect a limited number of people compared with other storm and pressure systems.  Therefore, this project will allow students to observe and practice weather forecasting as it relates directly to them.  This project can be done at any time however students might be motivated to watch the weather more closely in the winter months as the potential for a "snow day" increases for schools in some areas of the country or if a storm seems to be brewing according to media outlets.  Repeating the process (immediately or in the future) is also beneficial as students gain more skill at making predictions.

The primary value in this exercise is in a basic understanding of the connection between air pressure, temperature and humidity (or precipitation).  Secondarily understanding how the prevailing weather direction, upper air currents and the jet stream (as caused by the Coriolis effect) effect the movement of the storm is important. Reflecting the basic understanding should be the critical part that is reflected in their forecast.  Using the forecast of professional weather forecasters as part of their research is not discouraged, but emphasizing that their basic understanding should be reflected in their forecast will encourage students to use the information constructively.

Student groups can make forecasts for the class using powerpoint or as a class a forecast can be made.  Be sure to ask why students are making the prediction they are making in order to evaluate their authenticity.  In addition, an update to a class website can be done so that others outside the class can see their forecast.  Most importantly, review the weather prediction afterwards.  Weather Underground has a historical section in which you can see in detail the weather that occurred.  Once you have typed in your location scroll down and change the date to the days predicted.

Materials

Computers with Internet access (If computer access is limited, one computer and a projector will do nicely)
Blank US map

Instructions

1.  Locate high and low pressure systems in your region of the US.  Use the University of Illinois' WW2010 (http://ww2010.atmos.uiuc.edu/(Gh)/wx/surface.rxml) website for nice animations.  Other websites can be used as well. 
2.  Determine what type of weather is associated with each system (Hot, cold, wet or dry).
3.  How much cloud cover and precipitation is associated with these systems you are tracking?
4.  Plot their movement for the last 24 hours (this can be done at WW2010.  If using other websites you may not have this ability.)  What will happen to them as they move in the direction they are going?  Will they get colder, warmer, wetter, drier?
5.  Tomorrow revisit the website and plot them again and observe how they moved.  Note any changes in severity or note any absences of systems.  Why do some systems disappear?
6.  Care to make a prediction for the next 24 hours?  What will be the high temperature tomorrow?  What is the likelihood of precipitation (How many hours of precipitation?)?  How much precipitation and what type (snow or rain)?  How much sun will there be? 

(the next day)

7.  How did you do?  What surprised you?  What did you predict accurately?  What did you learn about predicting that you would use next time?

 


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