AccuWeather School: What are you actually smelling when it rains?
AccuWeather School is back in session with more engaging and educational virtual lessons to help kids and interested adults learn more about the weather – and have fun doing so!
📓 April 16 – Homework: Ahh, the smell of rain ... but what are you actually smelling?
For your homework this weekend – if it rains in your area, go outside and take a deep breath through your nose. Does it smell nice? So many people like that smell that there are rain-scented laundry detergents and candles. It may surprise you that you aren’t really smelling raindrops. You are actually getting a whiff of dirt, worms and other things in the ground.
Here’s another big word to impress your parents and teachers with – petrichor. That’s the scent that fills the air as raindrops hit the ground. It’s caused by oils from plants, mainly leaves, that settle onto soils or pavement over time. The more time that passes between rain events, the more the oil will build up and the stronger the scent.
Don’t forget when you head outside to smell the rain, grab an umbrella or raincoat or you’ll get soaked!
🔬 April 16 – Weather Lab: Time to make rain gauges
Measuring snowfall is as easy as sticking a ruler into the ground – but the same can’t be done with rain. Instead, meteorologists use a rain gauge to record how much rain has fallen.
You can make your own rain gauge at home with a clear cylinder, masking tape, ruler, and pen. If you are having trouble finding a clear cylinder, like the ice tea pitcher shown in the video below, ask your parents if they wouldn’t mind cutting a soda or water bottle in half. As long as they are okay with it, that works too!
Once you build the rain gauge, watch for any rain in the forecast and record how much falls. Be sure to put something around the rain gauge to provide it support so it doesn’t get knocked over by any wind.
📚 April 13 - Study Hall: Why are there so many earthworms after it rains?
Have you ever taken a walk after a soaking rainfall and had to avoid stepping on earthworms? Earthworms live in the dirt, so why do they come out of the ground after it rains?
As more earthworms come out of the ground, the more the air will smell like them. If someone says to you, “Ahh, the smell of rain is so nice,” be sure to tell them that they are just catching a whiff of dirt, worms or whatever the raindrop hits on the ground.
(Photo/ John Shepard/iStock /Getty Images Plus)
🌎 April 13 – History Class: ‘Perfect storm of calm’ played role in sinking of the Titanic
The Titanic sank in the frigid waters of the northern Atlantic Ocean during the early morning hours on April 15, 1912, after striking an iceberg.
While we have discussed much about clouds lately, there was not a cloud in the sky that fateful night. Even the moon was absent. The stars, however, were shining so brightly that historian and Titanic expert Tim Maltin told AccuWeather that people on the Titanic could see what time it was on their watches!
This April 10, 1912, file photo shows the liner Titanic as it leaves Southampton, England, on her maiden voyage. (AP photo)
Maltin said that “it was a perfect storm of calm” that played a role in the sinking of the Titanic. Listen below to learn more about that night and how the weather system that impacted the Titanic also played a role at the first baseball game ever played in Fenway Park:
🔬 April 9 - Weather Lab: Time to spin up tornadoes at home
A lot of ingredients go into a real tornado forming, but making one at home is simple with just a few items. You will need water and two empty soda bottles that are the same size, plus food coloring and glitter if you want to have extra fun with this experiment. To make the two soda bottles hold together, ask an adult to grab a large nail and hammer (or a drill with a half-inch drill bit will work) and duct tape.
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls shows us how to put everything together and spin up our own tornado in the video below!
📓 April 9 – Homework: Ready, set, go – tornado shelter drill
The time to know what to do if a tornado threatens your home is not when the AccuWeather app says a tornado is coming, but right now. For your homework, practice with your family (pets included!) going to your tornado shelter.
“The basement [in places that are] away from windows, an interior stairwell or interior bathroom,” AccuWeather Meteorologist and Emergency Preparedness Specialist Becky DePodwin said for the best locations to shelter during a tornado. Some people believe that the southwest corner of a basement is the safest spot – that is a myth. Seeking shelter in a bathtub is a good option.
Go to the lowest floor of your home or building if you don’t have a basement. Don’t forget that mobile homes, along with vehicles, are not safe places to be during a tornado.
(AP Photo/J. Pat Carter)
Regardless of where your tornado shelter will be, be sure to put a flashlight, bottled water, closed-toed shoes and a blanket there when a tornado watch is issued. The blanket can shield you from flying debris. Shoes will protect your feet if you have to walk through any damage.
🔎 April 6 - Show & Tell: Human-sized tornado machine!
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bob Smerbeck doesn’t have to leave his home to see a tornado – he just goes down to his basement and turns on his tornado machine!
Bob built the machine to look at how tornadoes form. This isn’t the simple experiment we did earlier to spin up a tornado with soda bottles and water. Bob spent three months making this machine – using a hair dryer, pipes, fan and a vaporizer.
How does Bob’s tornado compare to a real one? Many real tornadoes can grow up to a mile wide (the record widest is 2.6 miles) and these enormous twisters can damage or destroy many things in their paths. The one you see in the machine is about an inch wide and doesn’t create a mess in Bob’s basement – Mrs. Smerbeck is happy about that!
🎨 April 6 - Art Class: Weather has pirate hooks, and it’s no laughing matter
Have you ever dressed up like a pirate for Halloween and had a hook on your hand? While that was fun, it is no laughing matter when you see a pirate’s hook on weather radar.
A tornado-producing thunderstorm near Birmingham, Alabama, on April 27, 2011. (Image/GR2Analyst)
Look at the image above – it definitely looks like a hook, right? Meteorologists don’t call that a pirate’s hook, but a hook echo – a clear sign on radar that a tornado is on the ground.
Powerful thunderstorms that produce a tornado need warm, moist air to survive, and you can see that air rushing into the thunderstorm on radar – that’s the gap in the colors just above the tornado. Rain wrapping around the back of the thunderstorm to the tornado completes the hook.
There are times when the radar sees more than rain with a tornado. It can also tell if the tornado has debris spinning around it after it struck trees and buildings – that’s a worrisome sight for meteorologists.
📝 April 2 - Pop quiz! How many quadrillion gallon-sized milk jugs can Earth’s oceans fill up?
352,670 quadrillion! What’s a quadrillion? Let’s see that number with all of the zeros: 352,670,000,000,000,000,000 - our friends at NOAA get an A+ for that math!
Humans need to live on land, but there is way more water on Earth. Here are some facts to learn for your next pop-quiz:
Water covers 70 percent of Earth
Out of all the water on Earth, about 97 percent is in the oceans
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the four oceans on Earth
The longest river in the world is the Nile in Africa
The Mississippi River is not the longest river in the United States. The Missouri River beats out the Mississippi by 200 miles!
Water makes up about 60 percent of you
Water is very important to weather. Water evaporates from puddles, lakes and oceans. As that water vapor rises up in the air, it cools and condenses and forms clouds. Rain, snow and thunderstorms will follow if there’s enough moisture. What we just described is the water cycle!
⭐️ April 2 - Gold Star: AccuWeather School’s hurricane name list
Your homework last week was to come up with a new list of hurricane names – here are the top names that we received:
Everyone who sent in suggestions gets a gold star, and this list should make Steve below happy. That’s also the reason Kristina is on the list for this AccuWeather School Teacher!
Why was this your homework assignment? The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) Hurricane Committee just said that they will no longer use the Greek alphabet to name tropical storms and hurricanes in a very active year. They have come up with a whole new list of names to use instead.
Check out their list below to see if a name you submitted is on it.
🔬 March 30 - Weather Lab: Make your own firenado
Firenado? You guessed it – a tornado made out of fire. We’ve made tornadoes at home at AccuWeather School before, and now AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls will show us how to make a firenado.
Adult supervision is definitely required, and you should do this experiment with a fire extinguisher handy and away from flammable or loose items (such as cloth window curtains).
It’s bad enough when a massive wildfire is burning, but it gets even worse when the fire begins making its own weather. Firenadoes, fire storm clouds and gusty winds all can be created when the very hot air within a wildfire quickly rises up from the ground.
Air doesn’t just rise and leave a blank space – more air comes in to fill that gap. The faster the air rises (and it rises really fast in a wildfire), the windier it gets as the air following behind has to speed up.
Worse than that, the air isn’t sweeping in from one direction. It comes from all sides of the fire. All that twisting and spinning the air does causes a firenado to form. You guessed it, that’s a tornado made out of fire – talk about a scary sight!
📚 March 30 - Study Hall: December snow pile is finally gone!
Do you remember that massive snow pile in State College, Pennsylvania, that we’ve been watching and had a contest to see how long it would take to disappear? Many people thought that it would be gone before February, but it lasted a lot longer!
If you guessed March 26, you get the gold star!
It makes sense that with warmer weather snow piles will melt quickly, but the dew point also plays a role in how long snow will stay on the ground.
The dew point temperature tells us how much moisture is in the air – in the summer, the higher the dew point, the stickier the air feels. In the winter when dew points are really low, your hair may stick up after taking off a sweater or you can get a shock from static electricity – that’s because low dew points mean that the air is dry.
So how does that help with knowing how long a snow pile or snowman will last? If you don’t remember our lesson from the winter, here’s the answer:
🌎 March 28 - History Class: Anniversary of Niagara Falls running dry
Have you ever been to Niagara Falls to watch the water rush over the majestic falls on its journey from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario?
Did you know that 3,160 tons of water flows over Niagara Falls every second? That’s 75,750 gallons of water per second over the American and Bridal Veil Falls, and 681,750 gallons per second over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, according to our friends at the Niagara Falls State Park.
Think about that – look at the gallon of milk in your refrigerator, imagine 681,750 of those filled with water going over the Horseshoe Falls every second. That’s a lot of water!
Image by LuisValiente/Pixabay
Now picture this – since this is history class and not math class – imagine the mighty falls being reduced to a trickle of water. That actually happened in late March way back in 1848. Big chunks of ice from Lake Erie created a temporary dam, blocking water from reaching the falls.
If you’ve been to Niagara Falls, you have heard the thunderous roar as the water rushes over the falls. Think of how eerily quiet it would have become with the ice jam in place and the falls halted.
It also turned into a treasure hunt for people since they were able to get to the bottom of the river and retrieve items that had been lost!
The ice jam broke free nearly 40 hours later – returning Niagara Falls to its mighty self again.
📓 March 23 - Homework: Create a new hurricane list of names
It’s time to put on your thinking caps – we have to come up with a new list of hurricane names to use!
The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) Hurricane Committee just said that they will no longer use the Greek alphabet to name tropical storms and hurricanes in a very active year. They have come up with a whole new list of names to use instead.
Before you look at what that list is, your homework is to tell us what your choice of names would have been. You can either pick a name for the entire alphabet – though you can leave out names for Q, U, X, Y and Z as they are skipped for the Atlantic Basin – or just send in names for your favorite letter(s).
This combination of satellite images provided by the National Hurricane Center shows 30 hurricanes that occurred during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. (National Hurricane Center via AP)
Two things to keep in mind: Don’t pick a name that is already being used or that has been retired!
Send us your name ideas on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #AccuWeatherSchool. We will see how close our list is to the one just created by the WMO – stay tuned!
⭐️ March 23 - Gold Star: AccuWeather School hurricane name chosen!
Last May, your homework was to pick a name to replace Dorian since that deadly hurricane was likely to be retired after killing more than 200 people in the northwestern Bahamas in 2019.
Out of the nearly 50 different names we received, Dominic amassed the most votes. Damien, Donald and Dexter were other popular names – and guess what, the name Dexter was chosen to replace Dorian starting in 2025.
While you all submitted your guesses, the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) Hurricane Committee gets the final say in what tropical storms or hurricanes are retired and what names will replace them.
What does it mean when a storm is retired? That name will never be used again since the tropical storm or hurricane killed many people and/or caused a lot of damage.
“There’s a factor there in which they’re afraid if they use the name again that it will spark old memories [among people who’ve experienced the storm],” said AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.
In total, the WMO said that 93 names from the Atlantic Basin have been retired since 1953 – when storms began to be named during the current system. Out of how many names? Well, on average, there are 14 storms named in the Atlantic Basin each hurricane season.
📓 March 19 - Homework: Balance an egg on its end any day of the year!
Do you think that we are giving you this homework because it’s around the equinox? One common piece of folklore you hear is that it can only be done on the equinox, which is the first day of spring or fall. However, you can get an egg to stand on its end any day of the year!
People believe that folklore since they think the gravitational pull placed on the egg on the equinox allows it to remain upright throughout the day. “That’s not true,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Samuhel. “You can get lucky and balance an egg anytime. It has nothing to do with the equinox.”
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski was able to stand an egg on its end on April 24, 2020, way after the vernal equinox.
To complete your homework, you just need a lot of patience, concentration and a really solid surface (and permission from your parents in case you make a mess!).
One thing that is balanced on the equinox: the amount of daylight and darkness. These are the only two days of the year where day and night are about equal as the sun’s rays are directed at the equator.
🌎 March 19 - History Class: Why is the Earth tilted on its axis?
You may know that we have seasons because Earth is tilted on its axis – but, how’d Earth get that tilt in the first place? Let’s find out below:
If it wasn’t for Theia slamming into Earth and knocking it off balance, you would experience the same type of weather year-round. The direct rays of the sun would be aimed at the equator and never shift to allow the areas that get snow in the winter to wear flip-flops and shorts in the summer.
Because Earth is tilted at 23.5 degrees, the direct rays of the sun shift through the year as Earth revolves around the sun.
During the solstice in June, the sun’s most direct rays are aimed at the Tropic of Cancer – leading to summer in the Northern Hemisphere and winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
It’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere and summer in the Southern Hemisphere when the sun’s direct rays are aimed at the Tropic of Capricorn on the solstice in December.
There are two times during the year when the sun’s rays are aimed at the equator – that is happening right now with the vernal equinox (first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere) and will again on the autumn equinox!
📝 March 16 - Pop quiz! What planet is the hottest in our solar system?
Did you guess Mercury since it’s the closest planet to the sun? Temperatures can soar to 800 F during the day on Mercury, but Venus is even hotter – and is the correct answer!
“Venus is the hottest planet in our solar system due to an extreme greenhouse effect (its atmosphere is mostly all carbon dioxide),” AccuWeather Digital Journalist and Meteorologist Brian Lada said. “Temperatures can rise above 850 F!”
What planet gets the prize for being the coldest? Brian said that’s Uranus. Temperatures in this atmosphere of this blue planet can plummet under minus 370 F.
➗ March 16 - Math class: You would still be a baby on other planets
AccuWeather School is taking a field trip to our solar system to learn which planets are the worst for birthday parties.
If you are 12 years old with a birthday in mid-March, this is how old you would be on the other planets:
Mercury - 50 years old
Venus - 19.5 years old
Mars - 6 years old
Jupiter - 1 year old
Saturn - You wouldn’t turn 1 until Aug. 30, 2038
Uranus - You wouldn’t turn 1 until March 20, 2093
Neptune - You wouldn’t turn 1 until Dec. 30, 2173
You get a year older for every trip around the sun you take with Earth. Since Earth is roughly 93 millions away from the sun, it takes Earth just over 365 days to make that trip.
Mercury is closest to the sun at a distance of 35 million miles, so you would celebrate a birthday every 88 days! Neptune is 2.8 billion miles away – the planet that’s farthest from the sun in our solar system. It takes 60,190 Earth days for Neptune to make one trip around the sun – not good news if you like eating birthday cake!
Special thanks to AccuWeather’s Erik Austin and the Exploratorium Museum for helping to calculate your new ages!
📝 March 12 - Pop quiz! Can ocean water freeze?
For most, when standing along the ocean with snow covering the sand, they will see that the waves will keep crashing onto the beach. You may think that the air is cold enough for the ocean to freeze, but why doesn’t it? One of the main reasons is why you don’t drink seawater – it’s very salty!
At what temperature does water freeze? If you said, "32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius," you get a gold star! In the ocean, there is enough salt to drop the temperature at which the ocean will freeze down to 28.4 F, or 2 below zero C. At the beaches most of us visit, the air doesn’t get that cold long enough for the ocean to freeze – and the never-ending waves also keep the ocean from freezing as fast as lakes and ponds near your home.
The ocean will freeze if the air is cold enough. At least 15 percent of the ocean on Earth will freeze at some point in the year, our friends at NOAA said.
📓 March 12 - Homework: Police need your help! Solve the snowy footprint case
The police have a case that they need a forensic meteorologist to help with – one that involves a snowy footprint. Let’s get the details from AccuWeather’s Senior Forensic Meteorologist Steve Wistar:
So what do you think – did the police have the right shooter? Or what do you think happened to the snowy footprint as the air got warmer? Here’s Steve with the answer:
⭐️ Gold Star Time: Everyone gets a gold star for their hard work solving the case from Steve. Being a weather detective isn’t easy. It takes a lot of time to look at all of the information, but forensic meteorologists can provide that last piece of the puzzle to put a bad person in jail or settle arguments.
Forensic meteorologists dive into past weather information and go to court to give their expert opinions. That means sitting in the witness stand and being ready to answer hard questions from lawyers.
What cases can meteorologists help solve? Anything that involves the weather! People slipping on ice and suing businesses are common cases, but forensic meteorologists have even helped solve murder cases!
⛹️♂️ March 9 - Gym class: Watch out for those floating piles of fire ants!
If learning that fast-flowing water can knock you down or sweep cars away wasn’t enough to keep you out of flood waters, here’s another reason – dangerous wildlife.
It’s not just humans that have to leave their homes for a time when flooding is really bad. Animals that don’t live in water have to move to higher ground, and snakes and alligators can be found swimming in the flood waters where people normally walk or live.
How about this scary sight – floating piles of fire ants that appear during and after floods? The fire ants ride out floods on their own rafts. They may be tiny ants, but they can cause painful bites to you if you run into them – ouch!
A large fire ant raft. (Flickr Photo/Maggie)
🔬 March 9 - Weather Lab: Fleas in the snow??
Look at this photo below – if you walk past a snow pile looking like this, what would you think? That it was cinders or dirt that turned the snow black, and snow that we definitely don’t want to eat!
Photo provided by Tim Gale
Let’s zoom in on that snow pile – check out what those black spots really are:
Photo provided by Tim Gale
Woah – those black spots have legs and antennas. What you are looking at are snow fleas!
Despite their name, snow fleas aren’t really fleas – so don’t worry about them getting on your cats and dogs and causing them to itch. Snow fleas aren’t even insects. They belong to the class of springtails, according to our friends at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Insect Diagnostic Lab.
They have six legs like insects, but they don’t have wings and have a spring-like belly. That allows them to bounce up quickly into the air, much like a flea would jump.
What also makes snow fleas unique is that they are out and about in the winter. Most insects and bugs escape to warmer weather or burrow into the ground or trees and hibernate. Snow fleas create their own antifreeze, allowing them to run around in the snow! Do you think that snow fleas have snowball fights?
One last thing about snow fleas – they are out in the spring, summer and fall. They are just harder to spot!
🏥 March 5 - First aid class: Important ice fishing safety tips
Ice fishing can be a fun and relaxing winter activity, but there are safety tips you must follow. The most important ones are making sure the ice is thick enough and that you stay warm to protect against hypothermia:
AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham told us the difference between clear and gray ice, so how much clear ice is considered safe to be out on the ice?
“Always look for at least 4 inches (10 cm) of good clear ice in order for people to safely walk on,” Brandon said. He recommends at least 6 inches (15 cm) of clear ice to bring an ATV or snowmobile out on the ice, and at least a foot (30 cm) of clear ice to drive a car or small pick-up out on the ice.
“In all cases, though, the more ice, the better,” Brandon added.
“If there are any flowing bodies of water (creeks or rivers) that discharge into the lake or pond, these may be areas you want to avoid because of unsafe ice conditions,” Brandon said. “Moving water will take longer to freeze, and the ice may be thinner than surrounding areas of the lake.”
🏕️ March 5 - Field Trip: Last ice fishing trip of the winter!
It’s time for a field trip at AccuWeather School – this time, we are joining AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham on one of his last ice fishing trips of the winter in central Pennsylvania.
You may think that ice anglers want a day with bright sunshine and calm winds to lessen the chill when they are sitting out in the cold waiting patiently for the fish to bite. However, Brandon said that ice fishing tends to be slower on days when high pressure is overhead.
The better days for fishing is when a storm is approaching or overhead (meaning the air pressure is lower). Brandon and other ice fishers will just bundle up more on these cloudy days!
Regardless of the weather, Brandon reminds anyone new to ice fishing to make sure you know and follow the set of rules specific to your area – such as how many rods you are legally allowed to use, how many fish you can keep and if you need a fishing license.
🌎 March 2 - History Class: What has caused both snow in Miami and spawned tornadoes?
Let’s start AccuWeather School with a history lesson – it has snowed in Miami! Back on Jan. 19, 1977, snow was seen in South Florida for the first time in recorded history. There wasn’t enough snow to make a snowman in Miami, but just seeing snowflakes flying in this typically warm city was quite a treat to kids!
Why are we talking about snow in Miami in today’s lesson? To show you the power of cold fronts. A cold front marks the leading edge of colder air marching into an area. Cold fronts are why you may be wearing shorts one day but need a jacket the next.
In the winter, cold fronts can open the door for bitterly cold air from the North Pole to plunge southward – that’s how snow fell in Miami in 1977 and why it has snowed in some deserts in the past.
Cold fronts also show how powerful they are in warmer months by spawning tornadoes. Since cold air is more dense than warm air, the colder air marching in with a cold front will lift the warmer air up and away – that’s one of the key ingredients for a tornado to form.
📚 March 2 - Study Hall: Snizzle? That’s an actual weather term!
Snizzle is a funny-sounding word, but it is actually a weather term used by meteorologists. It is made up of two other weather words – find out if you guessed the correct two and how they can happen at the same time:
Snizzle is a portmanteau, or a combination of two words – in this case, light snow and drizzle. But you need to take it seriously when it is in the forecast. With temperatures below freezing, the drizzle part of snizzle can make roads and sidewalks very slippery.
You may laugh when you hear snizzle, but it can cause dangers to you and your family. That’s why many meteorologists (including us at AccuWeather) don’t use the term often. Instead, your forecast will read a mixture of freezing drizzle and flurries, and watch for icy spots.
But now you know what snizzle means in case you hear someone say it!
🔬 Feb. 26 - Weather Lab: Why fire won’t melt snow
Did you see some videos of people questioning whether snow was actually on the ground since a flame wasn’t causing the snow to melt into a puddle of water?
It wasn’t fake snow on the ground – as AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls shows us, it’s science in action!
While the snowball won’t melt into water, it will keep shrinking as the heat from the flame causes the snow to – big word time – sublimate. That means that the snow goes from a solid (in this case snow) to a gas (water vapor).
If you still have snow on the ground where you live and want to try this at home, just make sure you have an adult to help you out!
🦅 Feb. 26 - Bird Watching: Why don’t birds’ feet freeze in the winter?
You know not to run around barefoot on snow or you will get frostbite, but why can birds such as ducks and geese walk on snow and even swim in freezing cold water without needing shoes?
The answer is that they have a very unique circulation system:
Thanks to the Cornell Lab for helping to teach us about birds’ countercurrent heat exchange system – can you imagine your fingers and toes being close to freezing as the rest of your body is nice and warm? You would give someone a shiver just by touching them!
Speaking of shivering, that’s another way birds stay warm in the winter. They will also pack on body weight, fluff their feathers and cuddle, according to our friends at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Have you ever seen birds stand on one leg in the snow? They aren’t just trying to impress you; they are trying to keep their heat locked in – much like how you may wrap your arms around your body to stay warm instead of walking down the street with your arms spread out.
🌎 Feb. 23 - History Class: Coldest ever on Earth happened in the summer?
Following all of the news about the deadly and unusual cold in the United States last week, we are going to start history class with a pop-quiz – what is the all-time lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth?
Vostok, Antarctica, holds that record with a low of 128.6 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (89.2 degrees below zero Celsius).
Next question on the pop-quiz – what month did this happen?
If you guessed July, you get a gold star! But wait a minute, July is a summer month. For all of our students in the Northern Hemisphere, don’t forget that it’s winter in July in the Summer Hemisphere, where Antarctica is located.
Polar circle boat heading towards Esperanza, an Argentinian base on Antarctica. (brytta / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Today’s pop-quiz isn’t done – why doesn’t the North Pole hold this record?
Water keeps temperatures from dropping as much as over land – and what is the key difference between the North Pole and the South Pole? There is more water around the Arctic Circle, while Antarctica is a continent – that’s why Antarctica got the prize for the coldest spot ever on Earth on July 21, 1983.
⛹️♂️ Feb. 23 - Gym class: Time to freeze bubbles
If you love blowing bubbles, here’s something fun to do when it is really cold outside – create frozen bubbles! You just definitely have to bundle up since the best time to freeze bubbles is when temperatures are in the single digits or below zero Fahrenheit (under 13 below zero Celsius):
Have you run out of regular bubble solution since last summer? No problem! Mix one part water, four parts dish soap and a dash of light corn syrup to make your own homemade bubbles.
📝 Feb. 19 - Pop quiz! Why is the sky blue?
When you’ve had to draw a pretty picture with the sky in the background during art class, what color do you make the sky? Blue – everyone knows that. But why is the sky blue?
When light from the sun enters Earth’s atmosphere, it bumps into the tiny atoms and molecules of the gases that make up the air. When that happens, all the colors of the rainbow are scattered out of the light. Each color (or wavelength) travels to our eyes differently and that determines who wins the race to color the sky.
A flashlight can help us understand wavelength and how we see colors:
Flashlight shining right in your face (short wavelength) = you have to turn away from the bright light
Flashlight shining on your face from the other side of the room (long wavelength) = you can see the light, but it is not as bright.
Red has the longest wavelength – you can see it from farther away than any other color, and that’s why it’s better to have this color to tell us to stop. However, red doesn’t have the power of blue, which has a shorter wavelength and gets the prize for being the color of the sky.
🎨 Feb. 19 - Art Class: Create your own snow volcano
You may have made a volcano for a school project before, but it’s even better when you can build a volcano out of snow!
All you need for this fun activity is a small plastic cup or jar, two spoonfuls of baking soda, some dishwashing liquid, a few drops of food coloring and about two tablespoons of vinegar, and these instructions by AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls:
Did you know that most powerful volcanoes (the real ones, not our snow volcanoes!) can affect weather across the world? Even though volcanoes spew hot lava, big eruptions can cause the Earth to cool.
The small ash and other particles shot up high into the air by volcanoes can prevent some of the sun’s rays from reaching Earth’s surface – a blanket of clouds will do the same thing, but only for usually a few days at a time. We can notice cooler air due to volcanic ash for 1 to 3 years after a major eruption, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.
The bigger the volcano eruption and closer to the equator, the higher the chance for the whole globe to notice it’s cooler than normal. But again, it takes a really powerful volcano to change Earth’s weather.
For all the kids reading this, you weren’t born the last time a big volcano made the Earth cooler – that happened in 1991 with the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.
Mount St. Helens in Washington spews smoke, soot and ash into the sky in April 1980. (AP Photo/Jack Smith)
⚡ Feb. 16 - Shocking Truth: A bomb cyclone doesn’t involve TNT
If you haven’t heard it before, the phrase “bomb cyclone” is an actual weather term. While no explosives are involved in the creation of a bomb cyclone, explosive storm strengthening is very much a part of this weather phenomenon.
Bomb cyclone is a common phrase for a process known as bombogenesis, which comes from combining two words: bomb and cyclogenesis. “All storms are cyclones, and genesis means the creation or beginning,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski explains. “In this case, ‘bomb’ refers to explosive development.”
The heavy, windswept snow produced by bomb cyclones in the winter can cause dangerous travel and major disruptions. However, these are the storms that many kids dream of for one or more snow days and ample opportunity to go sledding, build forts and other fun snow activities.
A satellite image showing the record 'bomb cyclone' making its final approach late Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019, along the west coast of the U.S. (NOAA)
Parents and teachers will remember the Superstorm of 1993 (also known as the Storm of the Century), which was a prime example of a bomb cyclone.
⛹️♂️ Feb. 16 - Gym class: When will this massive snow pile finally melt?
It’s been two months since we started watching this massive snow pile in State College, Pennsylvania, wondering when it would fully melt. It actually has grown since we last looked at it!
While it shouldn’t surprise us that the snow pile got bigger from December to February – it is winter after all! Actually, did you know that it is already spring? It is when we are talking about solar spring. Meteorological spring starts on March 1, followed by astronomical spring on March 20.
Since there will soon be more days when the snow pile melts than days when more snow is added to it, when do you think this snow pile will finally be gone? Submit your guesses through Facebook or Twitter. Use the hashtag #AccuWeatherSchool to get credit! You can get a hint by looking at the long-range AccuWeather forecast.
🌎 Feb. 12 - History Class: Meteorologists focus on weather, not meteors
A person who studies the weather is officially called a meteorologist. It is a tricky word since meteorology starts with meteor, so you may think that is what a meteorologist focuses each day. So why the confusion? Let’s dive a little deeper.
Much like how George Washington was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Aristotle from ancient Greece is thought to be one of the founding fathers of meteorology. He wrote the first weather book, Meteorologica, way back around 340 BC.
The book’s title came from the Greek word that means lofty or in the air, which would refer to meteors, clouds, rain or snow. As time went on, astronomers took on the job of studying meteors and meteorologists focused on the weather. Maybe if it worked out the other way, all of us at AccuWeather would be called weatherologists!
⛹️♂️ Feb. 12 - Gym class: Time for a snowfall fight!
It’s snowing and you call up your friend to play outside – you go to have a snowfall fight, but the snowball falls apart. What happened? It’s never too cold for snow to fall, but it can be too cold for a snowball fight:
🎨 Feb. 9 - Art Class: Making snowflakes at home
It’s time to show off your artistic side by making snowflakes at home! All you need for this activity is construction paper, cotton balls and glue.
The snowflake that you just created with Krissy is called a dendrite snowflake. If you copied exactly how Krissy made her snowflake, yours and hers snowflakes would likely be the only two identical dendrite snowflakes ever made!
Ice crystals bump into one another and just a hair difference in temperature and moisture cause them to grow into different snowflakes before reaching the ground – even if they are right next to one another. That’s why it is very unlikely to find two snowflakes that are exactly alike!
🔬 Feb. 9 - Weather Lab: How the perfect snowflake is made
When you think of a snowflake, do these images come to mind:
These are called dendrite snowflakes – and they definitely show how artistic Mother Nature can be!
Just because it is snowing, doesn’t mean that you will always see these types of snowflakes. It all depends on temperatures way above our heads.
Remember when we talked about the water cycle – how water evaporates from the ground, and that water vapor cools and condenses into clouds. During the winter, water vapor within the cloud will also condense onto tiny pieces of dust or dirt, and an ice crystal will start to form – that’s the seed of the snowflake that lands on you!
Back to the temperature – the temperature needs to be between 0 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit (18 below zero to 12 below zero Celsius) within the cloud for these dendrite snowflakes to form.
Check out this video below and see how different these snowflakes look:
These are called needle snowflakes – don’t they look like needles at a doctor’s office or in a sewing kit. Needle snowflakes form when temperatures in the cloud are closer to 23 degrees Fahrenheit (5 below zero Celsius).
No matter what type of snowflake falls, you just want enough snow to close school and be able to play in, right??
Additional experiments and reporting by Jason Nicholls.
Previously:Report a Typo