Event-Based Science is a new way to teach middle school science. It is an award-winning, standards-based program in which newsworthy events establish the relevance of science topics; authentic tasks create the need-to-know more about those topics; and lively interviews, photographs, Web pages, and inquiry-based science activities create a desire to know more about those topics.
Hurricane! is an Event-Based Science module about one of the most devastating weather events that people can experience. Our story focuses on the devastation that Hurricane Andrew brought to South Florida in August, 1992. This storm destroyed 25,524 homes, damaged 101,241 more, left 250,000 people homeless and 54 dead.
The task in Hurricane! turns your class into teams of experts. Each team will publish a newspaper account of a real hurricane that is approaching one of 11 American cities that have been chosen as the teams' home cities. Each home city has a history that includes hurricane strikes and damage.
Each team of 6 students has its own Editor-In-Chief, Hurricane Specialist, Meteorologist, Natural Hazards Planner, Reporter, and Environmental Scientist. As this team receives daily information on the hurricane bearing down on its coastal city, decisions must be made. Action must be taken! The public must be informed!
If you are a teacher who is about to do the Science Activity called Hurricane Tracking, we have created a tool called Update Tracking Data. It is an MSWord file that presents tracking data for Day 8 through Day 13. Download the file and print out the three pages. Then cut out and glue the appropriate weather maps from Hurricane! Teacher Guide page 43 onto Update Tracking Data. Two maps will fit on each page. Make transparencies from these pages and use the transparencies to present additional tracking data as your students complete the activity.
During hurricane season---June 1 through November 30---you can use the Event-Based Science Hurricane! page as your starting point for tracking the Atlantic latest storm. Try clicking on on the word "tracking " or on the tracking map below to see what's happening now. You can also use the map on the right below to get almost real-time wind and wave-height measurements from a data buoy near any active hurricane.
Hurricanes in the Pacific do not usually threaten the mainland US. But if you want to see tropical storm activity in the East Pacific chick here .
HELPING HURRICANE VICTIMS
One way to engage your students in the topic of hurricanes is to have them support families who were directly affected by a recent hurricane. Begin your search for ways to help with these two organizations:
Hurricanes are named alphabetically. The first tropical storm or hurricane of the year has a name that begins with "A" and the second is given the name that begins with "B." Each year's list contains names that begin from A to W, but exclude names that begin withQ and U.
Beginning in 1953, the National Hurricane Center has publishes a new list of names for tropical storms and hurricanes. The first lists had only female names; but since 1979, the lists have alternated between male and female names.
Six lists of names are used. These lists rotate unchanged unless there is a devastating hurricane. When that happens, the name of that hurricane is retired and another name replaces it.
Underlined names below are linked to a tracking map for that Hurricane or Tropical Storm.
Are you and your students tracking a hurricane? Are you trying to predict whether or not it will strengthen or weaken? You can use a wind shear map to help you.
Wind Shear can cause a hurricane to weaken!
Wind shear is the result of streams of air flow at different altitudes. It ranges from a low of 0 to 5 to highs of 40-50.
For example, if there is an easterly flow of air at 30 mph at 40,000 ft., and a westerly flow of air at 25mph at 20,000 ft., the wind shear is 5.
High wind shears tend to disrupt smaller tropical depressions as they are forming.
Wind Shear Map You can look at a map of current wind shear here. You may find it hard to figure out at first. This may help:
Find the white outlines of land so that you can see the part of the ocean area you're interested in.
The yellow lines showing wind shear are like lines on a contour map.
A circle with a 20 or lower on it is an area of low wind shear. If you have one of those low wind shear areas where your hurricane is developing it means that there's not enough wind sheer to disrupt it. The tropical storm or hurricane you are tracking is likely to grow.
If the wind shear is higher that 30 where your storm is developing you will probably see it weaken or even disappear.
Find the white outlines of land so that you can find the part of the ocean you're interested in.
Yellow lines showing wind shear are like lines on a contour map.
A circle with a 20 or lower on it is an area of low wind shear. If you have a low wind shear area where your hurricane is developing it means that there's not enough wind sheer to disrupt it. With low wind shear the tropical storm or hurricane you are tracking is likely to grow.
If the wind shear is higher than 30 where your storm is developing you will probably see it weaken or even disappear.
A wording problem has been found in the "Cloud Formation" Discovery File on page 5: "These tiny droplets condense onto solid particles ...", although correct could be misread as the already formed droplets collecting around particles rather than the original condensation of the droplets occurring onto the particles. Similarly with "additional water droplets attach themselves to the surrounding particles".
Another problem was found in the figure on page 36. The cross-section shown for the stationary front is actually a cross-section of an occluded front which is one in which a cold front has caught up with a warm front thus lifting all the warm air off the ground as shown in the figure. A stationary front is one that still has warm air at the ground on one side and cold air on the other side (as suggested by the map symbol) and thus could turn into a warm front or a cold front if it starts moving.
Thanks to Dr. Steven Carson (Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) of NOAA) for catching these errors and providing the correct information.
Building and Testing A Hurricane Resistant Building
Roger Johnson (science teacher, Maplewood Middle School, Maplewood, NJ) has designed a great new activity to go with Hurricane! Click here to read about his activity: Hurricane-Resistant Building Design
Seeing Into the Heart of a Hurricane
Despite the forecasts that Hurricane Opal would hit their town in a little more than 24 hours, the residents of Pensacola, Florida, remained relatively calm on October 3, 1995. They pulled their boats out of the water, boarded up the beachfront businesses and went about their daily routines, fearing no more than perhaps a few fallen trees and a missed day of work. At that time, the National Hurricane Center predicted that Opal would remain a Category 1 storm, packing peak winds of around 90 miles per hour---a veritable creampuff as far as hurricanes go.
Then overnight, as the hurricane moved across the Gulf of Mexico towards the city, something happened that no one predicted. The hurricane gathered energy from some then unseen reserves, jumped up in intensity to a strong Category 4 storm with peak winds of 150 mph, and threatened to turn Pensacola into a deluge of seawater and rain. The whole region went into a frenzy. The residents gathered what they could, evacuated their homes, and lined up bumper to bumper on Interstate 110 in an effort to flee.
As with all Event-Based Science modules, much of the information you need is provided in Hurricane!. To help you further, the section below contains a list of World-Wide Web sites where additional information about hurricanes is available. Point to and click on the highlighted words to be linked with stormy web pages.
Links To Hurricane! Related Web Sites
(Links are checked monthly. They were working on the date of the last update.)
Earth from SpaceA NASA collection of images that includes hurricanes as viewed from space.
MoviesLittle digital versions of Earth science "movies."
USA Radar This site contains the current weather-radar map of the United States.
Hurricane Andrew Sequence - NASA
NODS Climate Visualization This is a great site that allows students to graph and download data from the World's Weather Data Archive. As you work to complete the Hurricane! task, you might want to plot real weather data from your city. This site will give you graphs of different weather measurements for the year and month the hurricane actually hit--a great addition to your newspaper.
Damage Caused by Hurricane Isabel, 2003
Courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Census BureauMaps and population information that will help you to better understand the community your newspaper is covering.