Introduction to Severe Weather Patterns
- Grade level: Upper Elementary, Middle School.
- Subject Area: Science, Language Arts.
This lesson uses traditional and/or on-line resources to introduce students to basic weather terminology and background on wind, storms, clouds, and rain. As part of this lesson, students learn how the basic weather measurements - temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed and direction - are used by meteorologists to predict weather patterns from models of atmospheric change. While there are a variety of printed materials that can be used for this lesson, there are also a growing set of on-line resources that are available.
- Use printed or on-line resources to review basic weather concepts and terminology.
- Study weather modeling tools.
Materials and Resources
In developing our lessons and activities, we made some assumptions about the hardware and software that would be available in the classroom for teachers who visit the LETSNet Website. We assume that teachers using our Internet-based lessons or activities have a computer (PC or Macintosh) with the necessary hardware components (mouse, keyboard, and monitor) as well as software (operating system, TCP/IP software, networking or dial-up software, e-mail and a World Wide Web client program, preferably Netscape, but perhaps Mosaic or Lynx). In the section below, we specify any "special" hardware or software requirements for a lesson or activity (in addition to those described above) and the level of Internet access required to do the activity.
- Special hardware requirements: none.
- Special software requirements: none.
- Internet access: Medium-speed (28,000 BPS via modem) or High-speed (greater than 1 MBPS via network).
Before beginning this activity, collect printed materials on weather and meteorology (see Library Resources). Use books, magazines, and newspaper articles drawn from the library or media center that explain basics of weather.
- Organize students into groups, or have them work in pairs, investigating and studying basic weather concepts. Review the basic concepts of weather modeling and prediction - temperature, humidity, pressure, and wind - and how weather predictions are made based on models of atmospheric movements. Talk about the Jet Stream and El Nino and how they affect national and global weather patterns.
- Students bring in the weather page from their local paper and discuss how to interpret the information on this page. Talk about the basic measurements of weather - temperature, wind velocity and direction, changes in air pressure, and moisture levels.
- Students visit the USA Today Website (see Web Resources below) and check out their daily weather page with a map of U.S. weather patterns.
- Discuss how important the weather is to our everyday lives, and how we need warnings of impending severe weather patterns to save lives and limit destruction of property. Ask the students if they have ever been in a tornado, hurricane, or flood. Have them talk about their own experiences and write them down.
- Consider having students view movies about severe weather patterns - such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and flooding. Visit the Twister, the Movie at the Warner Brothers Pictures Website (see Web Resources below) and talk about how tornadoes are popular topics for movies, books, and magazines.
- If students have access to the Weather Channel at home, have them watch it and write about the kinds of information presented there. Students can also visit The Weather Channel Website (see Web Resources below).
- Discuss and review basic weather terminology and concepts at the end of this lesson to ensure the students understand the basics. Encourage students to think about how temperature, pressure, humidity, and wind affect weather patterns.
- Encourage students to monitor the local weather, to follow (and perhaps record) predictions in the local paper about future weather, to see how accurate these predictions are. Help students see that meteorologists, like any other scientist, make educated guesses or predictions based on their understanding of weather patterns and movements in the atmosphere.
- El Nino
This USA Today site contains information on the weather phenomenon called El Nino.
- Twister, the Movie
The web site of the movie, Twister, with lots of interesting information on tornadoes.
- The Weather Channel
Be sure they get a chance to see the following sections: So you want to be a meteorologist?, [http://www.weather.com/2bmet.html], the Meteorologist's Toolbox [http://www.weather.com/mettools.html], and weather terminology [http://www.weather.com/vocab.html].
- USA Today weather page
This site includes a map of the U.S. with weather patterns, along with current weather news.
These are some examples of resources on weather available for use with students. The list is by no means exhaustive, but is intended to serve as a starting point for your search for books. Encycolpedias, both paper and CD-ROM, also are fine places for children to look for information on weather. Each resource in our list has a brief description as well as a range of grades for which it is most appropriate.
- How Weather Works, by R. DeMillo
4-12 graders, an excellent introduction to weather patterns, covering air movements, seasons, violent weather, the atmosphere, and meteorology. Includes a number of good diagrams and charts.
- The Weather Book: Any easy-to-understand guide to the USA's weather, by J. Williams
4-12 graders, from the people at USA Today, a fact-filled book on weather that covers all aspects, including causes of weather patterns, wind, rain, snow and ice, severe weather, and global weather issues.
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