AccuWeather School: Week 1
📓 April 14 – Homework: Who’s your favorite meteorologist?
While you may not know some of the faces you see below, many are the meteorologists who create forecasts for AccuWeather. They work hard during the day and even at night to make sure parents know when it will be a perfect day for kids to play outside or when they need to keep children safe indoors during bad weather.
Caption: AccuWeather employees celebrate #DressForSTEM by wearing purple on Pi Day (March 14) 2019. (Photo/@tmgreyphot)
You likely know who your favorite meteorologist is on the AccuWeather Television Network or your local TV station. If your parents say it’s OK, send us a picture of that person through Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #AccuWeatherSchool and if you want to be a meteorologist when you grow up!
🌎 April 14 – History Class: Some good came from a devastating tornado outbreak
Nearly 150 tornadoes tore across 13 states in the U.S. in early April 1974, killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands more. Meteorologists did not let this devastating outbreak simply pass as a chapter in history books. They took action in hopes such devastation wouldn’t be repeated.
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski lived through the outbreak and said that afterwards meteorologists pushed hard to better understand how severe weather and tornadoes form. More tools were then created for meteorologists, which you can learn more about in the AccuWeather podcast below.
Improvements to these tools continue today to keep you and your family safe when minutes count as a tornado is threatening.
📚 April 14 – Pop quiz!
From the list below, choose each option that describes what a meteorologist does:
Gives a weather forecast on TV
Creates the forecast that is found on your AccuWeather App
Chases tornadoes to learn more about these deadly storms
Teaches classes for future meteorologists
Flies an airplane into hurricanes to gather important information
Tracks meteors entering into Earth’s atmosphere
Provides your local newspaper or radio station with a weather forecast
Studies how the Earth’s climate [typical weather for a given area] changes over time
If you said everything but number 6, you are correct! There are many more meteorologists than those you see on TV. Many work behind the scenes to make sure you and your family stay safe during severe weather (and know when you can expect a snow day!). Some meteorologists do not even forecast the weather daily but have very important jobs.
🔬 April 14 – Weather Lab: Make your own tornado, other experiments to do at home
Meteorologists whose job is to learn more about the weather get to do experiments often. Why do we need to better understand how the weather works? More information can lead to even better forecasts.
Pretend you are a meteorologist and have fun with these three simple weather experiments. You can have a bottle blow up a balloon for you, make your own tornado and show how rain falls out of a cloud -- all using basic items you can find at home and with supervision from your parents.
🛎 April 14 – Morning Bell: 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 on daily. 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!
📓 April 13 – Homework: Help calm your pet during thunderstorms
Do you get scared during thunderstorms? Even if you’re brave and don’t mind hearing thunder rumble, there is a good chance that your pet is not a fan of the loud booms. Cats tend to run and hide during thunderstorms, but some dogs may need extra love and attention from their families until the weather quiets down.
So what can you do to help your best friend? Petting your dog or playing loud music or games may be enough to help soothe the jitters. Some dogs also enjoy wearing a ThunderShirt, or something similar, that makes them feel like they are getting a big, long hug! Before you do anything, get input from your parents since your dog might not understand what you are doing if they are scared.
For tonight’s homework assignment, take a picture of you practicing calming your pet during a thunderstorm. If you don’t have a pet, give someone you love a big hug (like what a ThunderShirt would do). If your parents say it’s OK, send us those pictures through Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #AccuWeatherSchool. We will be handing out Gold Stars on Friday for awesome photos!
📚 April 13 – Study Hall: Cellphones are generally safe during thunderstorms
We learned earlier that you shouldn’t use a landline phone during a thunderstorm, but can you pick up a cellphone or tablet to play a game to pass the time or text your friends?
When it comes to what things lightning will strike, lightning safety specialist John Jensenius said that nothing (including cellphones) really attracts lightning. Electricity from a lightning strike can travel through phone lines or power cords to a landline phone or computer. If your cellphone or tablet isn’t plugged into anything, that won’t happen.
That being said, you can get struck by lightning when using your cellphone or tablet, even if it isn’t attached to a cord. You still need to be in a safe place during a thunderstorm, such as inside a sturdy home or building, away from windows and doors and not taking a bath or shower. A thunderstorm is also a good excuse to delay your chore of washing dishes!
✅ April 13 – Spelling test!
Lightning is a very common misspelled word. Many people will add an “e” or leave out the first “n”. Let’s break it down a little more so you can become an expert for your next spelling test.
Lightning - This is the correct spelling when talking about what you see during a thunderstorm.
Lightening - Means to brighten or lessen the load. You could say that lightning was lightening up the sky, but it is incorrect to write “I just saw lightening.”
Lighting - This refers to lights, such as in your home. See how it’s used in this sentence - We couldn’t wait to go and see the lighting of the Christmas tree.
Once you memorize this, you will make your English teacher and favorite meteorologist very happy!
To stay safe in a thunderstorm, remember and follow the phrase "When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!" (Photo/NOAA)
🌎 April 13 – History Class: Don’t underestimate lightning’s deadly power
You hear thunder and head indoors -- great way to stay safe. But now, the landline phone at home or your parent’s office is ringing. Should anyone answer it? No, let the answering machine pick it up.
People have been shocked by lightning when talking on the phone. One person was even killed in Kincaid, Illinois, on this date in 1981. Lightning struck an outside telephone line and traveled to the house via a phone line, causing the phone to explode. For more on that deadly lightning strike, listen to our This Day in Weather History podcast below.
Why take the chance of being electrocuted by picking up a landline phone when you hear thunder. Call the person back on your cellphone – as long as it is not plugged in and charging.
🛎 April 13 – Morning Bell: Lightning is 5 times hotter than the sun’s surface
When a bolt of lightning passes through the air, it can heat the air to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That is about five times hotter than the surface of the sun. Also, compare that to the current temperatures around your home -- talk about hot!
To understand how lightning forms, think of a simple battery in your home. One end of the battery has a + for a positive charge, and the other is labeled with a - for a negative charge. Within a thunderstorm, there are numerous positive and negative charges. When the difference between these charges increases to a certain point, you get a significant spark of electricity in the form of a lightning bolt.
Lightning doesn’t just strike the ground. There are lightning bolts that never leave the sky. You may see lightning streak within its own thunderstorm cloud or strike another neighboring cloud. One thing to remember is that when you hear thunder, run indoors to avoid being struck. When something can heat the air to a temperature hotter than on the sun, you know that it’s very dangerous!
📓 April 10 – Homework: Spin around like a hurricane or blizzard
Bomb cyclones, hurricanes, blizzards, nor’easters, and big rainmakers -- what do they all have in common? They are all low pressure systems, remember the “L” symbols on the weather map that we learned about earlier, which cause bad weather. Thunderstorms and tornadoes also count as low pressure areas, just on the small scale. Simply put, a low pressure system is a storm.
In addition to blowing toward low pressure systems, the air flowing around us will also swing around storms in a counterclockwise direction in the Northern Hemisphere due to the rotation of the Earth. The opposite happens in the Southern Hemisphere.
As a homework tonight, do your best impression of the air rotating around a storm. Grab a hula-hoop or put your hands on your hips and twirl around in a counterclockwise way. Just don’t get too dizzy if you are trying to spin around really fast like a hurricane!
🌎 April 10 – History Class: Spring snowfall
While snow blanketed parts of the Northeast today, there weren’t many snowstorms or snow days this winter. That definitely wasn’t the case during the winter of 1995-1996, when snow kept falling into April.
On April 10, 1996, a strengthening storm dropped 5 inches of snow on Atlantic City, New Jersey (Atlantic City didn’t even get an inch of snow this winter!). Boston had 6 inches of snow that day, and 16 inches buried nearby Worcester, Massachusetts. Wouldn’t that have been fun to play in? For more on that snow day, listen to our This Day in Weather History podcast below.
🔬 April 10 – Weather Lab: Explode-an-egg-in-a-bottle experiment
When looking at a weather map, you will often see “L” and “H” symbols. So what do they really mean? One basic concept for explaining how the weather works is that the air we feel blowing around us always wants to flow toward those “L” symbols, or low pressure systems. Low pressure systems are also commonly called storms. As the air reaches the storms, it rises, cools and condenses to form clouds and rain or snow. “H” systems, or high pressure systems, are associated with nice weather. As the air rushes toward the storms, air from above our heads comes rushing down and generally leads to a clear sky and sunshine.
Here’s one easy experiment that can be done at home that visually explains the effects of changes in air pressure. As AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls demonstrates, you will only need a glass container with an opening big enough to rest an egg on (a glass milk jug is perfect), hard-boiled egg, napkin and lighter. It’s easy and fun -- but you will need adult supervision for this experiment.
🛎 April 10 – Morning Bell: A bomb cyclone doesn’t involve TNT
It may be hard to believe, but 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.
Tom Baird, a resident of St. John's, digs out a path to find his car, which was buried in snow that towers above his head and came from a bomb cyclone in January 2020. (Twitter/@BairdTom)
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. Remember the scenes from Newfoundland, Canada, earlier this year? St. John’s was buried by nearly three feet of snow. That was the work of a bomb cyclone.
Additional experiments and reporting by Jason Nicholls.
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