AccuWeather School: Week 3
📓 April 24 - Homework: Try balancing an egg on its end
Wait, why is this your homework if today is not the first day of spring or fall? That’s because you can attempt to balance an egg on its end any day of the year. One folklore you hear is that it can only be done on the equinox, which is the first day of spring or fall.
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.
📚 April 24 - Study Hall: Do you trust a groundhog's weather forecast?
Many of you may know Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil who looks for his shadow every Feb. 2 to let us know if there will be six more weeks of winter or an early spring. While Punxsutawney Phil is famous, there are many other groundhogs that attempt to predict the weather.
How can meteorologists predict so far into the future? Meteorologists look at weather patterns across the globe and compare them to similar past seasons for what the weather will be like months from now. You can compare this to how weather folklore started in the sense of looking for signs of one thing that will lead to another. With meteorologists today, it’s not folklore, it’s proven science!
🌎 April 24 - History Class: It's raining ... fish, frogs, and turtles?! That's happened before!
Weather can be really scary at times. Tornadoes and hurricanes can be frightening and can make you fear for your safety. Some people have even thought a certain weather event in past meant the world was coming to an end!
What would you think if it was raining and more than just raindrops were falling from the sky? We aren’t talking about hail or snow, but tiny white fish. That actually happened in the small town of Lajamanu in the Northern Territory of Australia in early 2010! It is likely that strong winds flowing from the ground into an intense thunderstorm may have picked up the fish. As rain and wind came back down to the ground, so did the fish!
There are other instances in history of fish and frogs being sucked up into a powerful thunderstorm or tornado. A turtle was even wrapped in a 6-inch ball of ice and fell from the sky during a hailstorm in Mississippi more than a century ago.
➗ April 24 - Math class: Crickets make good thermometers
Here’s another weather folklore that’s true - you can use crickets as thermometers!
“Crickets chirp faster when the air is warmer and slower when it’s cooler,” said AccuWeather Broadcast Meteorologist Regina Miller. Simply count how many cricket chirps you hear in 14 seconds and add 40. That will give you a rough estimate of the temperature in Fahrenheit (convert to Celsius if you need to), according to Regina.
How about if a woolly caterpillar can predict a harsh winter? We shift from math class to story time as the AccuWeather podcast below has that answer and more weather folklore:
🛎 April 24 - Morning Bell: Any truth in ‘Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning?'
Are you familiar with any examples of weather folklore - a phrase where if someone sees something, it means a certain weather event will happen? Have you heard of how the stripe on woolly caterpillars can predict how harsh a winter will be? Or how when an older relative says their bones are creaking, that means that a storm is coming? The phrase “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight” or “Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning" is one of the most common weather folklore.
Weather folklore has been passed down from generations. Many are centuries old and stem from when people did not have computers and smartphones to get a weather forecast. People would notice things that occurred ahead of certain weather and used that to make their own forecasts.
Some folklore is true; others have been proven as false. Back to the “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight" - there is actually truth to it! Learn more below:
📓 April 23 - Homework: Build a cloud in your home!
Here’s a cloud that will never block out the sun – one you can make in a jar with common items around your home!
First, gather up the following: a jar with a lid, hot water (make sure you have help from your parents), ice cubes and hair spray or body spray. You can also grab a dark-colored construction paper to put on the back of the jar to see the cloud better.
Once you have everything you need, watch AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls demonstrate how to make the cloud in the video below. Wondering why you need hair spray or body spray? That’s the cloud condensation nuclei that the air needs to cool and condense on to make a cloud.
Check out the photos from Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde who took this experiment to the next level and made a cloud that floated in a room!
📝 April 23 - Pop quiz! Can you get a sunburn on a cool, sunny April day?
If you answered no, would you have said yes if the month was August and not April?
Actually, you can get a sunburn on a cool, sunny day in both April and August. The outside air temperature has nothing to do with getting a sunburn. It is more about what month it is and how strong the sun is.
The strength of the sun’s rays reaching you are as strong in late April as they are in mid-August – meaning that you are just as easy to get a sunburn now as you are in mid-August. “It is possible to get a sunburn on a sunny day with a temperature of 40 F (4 C) as well as a sunny day with a temperature of 80 F (27 C),” according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
It’s even possible to get sunburn in the winter, especially at high elevations!
The above pop quiz is more for those of you living in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s fall for our friends south of the equator. They need to worry about getting a sunburn on a cool, sunny spring day in October.
🎨 April 23 - Art Class: Sundials are fun to make! How do they really work?
Here’s a fun activity to do on a sunny day – create your own sundial. All you need is a paper plate, something to stick in the middle of the plate to cast a shadow (a pen will work) and a pencil.
Pick a spot outside that gets sun all day. Every hour, go outside and draw a line on the paper plate where the shadow is and mark what hour that is. Make sure that you stand in the same spot, facing the same way each hour. In between making your hourly marks or when you are all done, feel free to decorate your sundial!
If you are headed out to play, you can use your sundial to know when you have to be back home. However, have you ever noticed that where the sun sets in the sky one night is different from where it will set a few months from now (unless you live at the equator)? That is due to the tilt of the Earth and why we have seasons.
The bad news is that the sun’s shifting position in the sky can mess up your sundial. A simple fix – if you are headed out to play at 2 p.m., set your sundial up at that time and then you can rely on it to tell you when it’s dinnertime!
🌎 April 23 - History Class: Sun’s radiation doesn’t directly heat the air, so how do temperatures soar?
The air around us is very bad at absorbing radiation from the sun. It’s actually the ground that does most of the work. The ground soaks up the sun’s rays and then turns around and releases it as heat into the air.
While it all starts with the sun, time of year, cloud cover and/or whether there is colder or hotter air surging into your area, all of these factors determine the high temperature on a given day. Sometimes, temperatures soar higher or plummet lower than ever before at a particular place and weather records are broken.
The highest temperature ever recorded on Earth was in California’s Death Valley on July 10, 1913, with a high of 134 F (56.7 C). It makes sense that this hottest day occurred in the summer. However, April has had its share of heat records broken. Gather around for story time as the Weather History podcast tells you about one sizzling April day.
🛎 April 23 - Morning Bell: Sun, at 4.5 billion years old, keeps sending heat to Earth
Throw away your definition of old -- it doesn’t compare to the sun’s age! NASA estimates that the sun is about 4.5 billion years old. Can you imagine all of the birthday candles it would need?!?
We just celebrated Earth Day, but it seems like we should throw a party for the sun. It’s one of the main reasons we have weather. The heat the Earth receives from the sun, the tilt of the Earth on its axis and then the different temperatures across the globe are essentially what stirs up weather.
Check out these other sizzling sun facts from NASA:
Talk about hot! - the Sun’s core is about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius)
Giant size - If the Sun were as tall as a basic front door, Earth would only be the size of a nickel.
Ball of hot gas - The Sun is made up largely of hydrogen with a small part of helium.
Spinning in all directions - In addition to spinning on its axis like the Earth, the sun spins at its equator (don’t get dizzy!).
Superhero strength - The sun’s gravity not only holds its ball of hot gas together, but also our entire solar system.
This image of the Sun was captured by NASA/GSFC/Solar Dynamics Observatory on December 12, 2018.
📓 April 22 - Homework: It’s easy to start garden vegetables inside your home
Don’t be bummed if you learned earlier that your area could still have another frost or freezing temperatures this spring. That doesn’t mean you can’t plant some vegetables.
Some vegetables can withstand colder weather, such as potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, peas, carrots, garlic, onions and some of the heartier lettuce. AccuWeather’s agricultural experts say that it’s OK to plant these veggies about 2-3 weeks before the average last frost date in your community (check out the map below if you aren’t sure when that is).
Do you love fresh cucumbers and peppers and can’t wait to get them planted? AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski shows you how to start these veggies indoors in the video below so you can enjoy them earlier than normal!
🔬 April 22 - Weather Lab: Perfect ‘magic’ experiment for Earth Day
Do you remember what the three R’s to help Earth are?
Here’s a weather experiment that’s perfect for Earth Day since you will reuse one key item!
All you need is a bowl of water, glass and a dry paper towel. Watch AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls stuff the paper towel in a glass before putting the glass into the bowl of water. When he pulls the glass out of the water, the paper towel isn’t wet!
How did the paper towel stay dry? When the glass is lowered into the water, the air inside gets trapped and has nowhere to go. The air will then push the water away from the glass as it’s lowered into the water, keeping the paper towel from getting wet. You can reuse the paper towel over and over again to show your family – just don’t tilt the glass and allow some water to sneak in!
🥪 April 22 - Lunch break: Is it safe to plant your veggies, flowers outside?
Planting flowers and vegetables in your garden may seem like a perfect Earth Day activity, but be mindful if any thunderstorms are threatening and if there could be a frost or freeze the rest of the spring.
If you live outside of the mountains in central and southern Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee or points to the south, AccuWeather long-range meteorologists feel that you are safe from a frost the rest of this spring. That may also be the case south of Interstate 70 in Missouri and Kansas with the Ozark Mountains being the exception.
Frost is not frozen dew. If you look carefully at the frost, you will see ice crystals. Even when your thermometer is reading a few degrees Fahrenheit above freezing, frost can form and kill plants that can’t handle cold weather as well as others.
Learn more about why gardening is a good way to beat feeling stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic in the podcast below:
⛹️♂️ April 22 - Recess: Build a condo for bees instead of running from them
Bees may scare you, but they do more good than harm (unless you are allergic) – we need bees for some of the food we eat to grow.
Want to help bees thrive? You can create a bee habitat by leaving a tree limb in your yard (away from where you play or the door to your home). Another fun activity to do at home is to make a “bee condo.” Ask an adult to drill holes of different sizes about three to five inches deep in a piece of scrap lumber. The “bee condo” is complete once you mount that lumber to a post or under eaves that get sunlight.
It is not just bees helping to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers. Let’s send out a big thank you to hummingbirds, bats, beetles, ants, wasps and butterflies for being great pollinators!
🛎 April 22 - Morning Bell: Earth Day turns 50! Let’s celebrate by planting a tree
For the last 50 years, people around the globe have celebrated Earth Day on April 22 to promote ways to keep our planet healthy. Some festivities that are typically done in large gatherings are on hold this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but you can still make a difference and help the Earth at home!
Two of the most simple ways you can help the environment is to plant a tree and recycle. What does planting a tree do? Every person and animal on Earth needs oxygen to breathe, and one large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people, according to the USDA. That same tree can clean the air by removing 48 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.
You and your family can plant a tree this year, like some of us at AccuWeather did to celebrate Earth Day 2019. What if you don’t have a yard or it’s too cold to plant a tree? Talk to your parents about putting low-maintenance plants in pots around your home to clean the air. Every little bit counts to saving our planet!
AccuWeather team members planted a dwarf Alberta Spruce outside of the company’s Headquarters in State College, Pennsylvania, on April 22, 2019. The tree was nicknamed Spruce Springsteen.
📓 April 21 – Homework: Check if any clouds will spoil seeing the meteor shower, 4 planets
It’s a stargazer’s delight – four planets will be visible on the same night as the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower! Before you ask your parents if you can stay up late or wake up early to see the meteor shower or planets, check out your local forecast and satellite image. Your favorite meteorologist is hard at work determining if clouds will spoil the show.
This is how the planets will be aligned early on Wednesday morning. The only difference is that the moon will not be visible as it was on April 15, 2020. (Photo/AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Samuhel)
“You can’t miss Venus in the evening sky,” according to Dave Samuhel (remember earlier when we said that you can have more than one career when you get older - Dave is both a senior meteorologist and astronomy blogger at AccuWeather!). “You can see Venus from sunset to around midnight (local time), when it sets in the western sky.”
If you wake up early Wednesday morning, look to the southeast in the general area the sun will rise as Dave says you’ll see three more planets - Jupiter will rise first, followed by Saturn and Mars. “Jupiter is the brightest planet, second only to Venus,” he added.
📝 April 21 – Pop quiz! Alien spaceships or clouds? You be the judge
A view as a storm approached the UW-Madison campus on Thursday, May 16, 2019. The photo was taken by Sarah Griffin from the top of the AOSS building.
You see the above photo and what are your first thoughts? An alien spaceship is invading this city. It sure looks that way! Actually, it is a shelf cloud. These clouds form as strong winds rush colder air down and outward from a thunderstorm. If thunder wasn’t enough of a warning to scare you indoors, shelf clouds should be.
Former AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rathbun, who now works for the National Weather Service, spotted this lenticular cloud over the NWS Office in Albany, New York, on April 19, 2020.
Is this a friendly-looking spaceship over Albany, New York? Looks almost like it could be, but this is an example of a lenticular cloud. Air rising over a mountain can cool enough for condensation to occur and allow this cloud to form. Lenticular clouds are different from other clouds because they don’t move, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell. Other weather phenomena can allow lenticular clouds to be seen in non-mountainous communities.
🎭 April 21 – Story Time: Some planets have seasons, just like Earth
It’s currently springtime across the Northern Hemisphere and fall for those living south of the equator. The Earth being tilted on its axis is the reason we have seasons. If it wasn’t for that tilt, you would be stuck in one season all year long.
We talked earlier about different weather on other planets, but what about seasons? Take a guess to see which planet you think has a similar tilt on its axis like Earth, and then which one looks like it fell over! Watch the video below for the answers:
🥪 April 21 – Lunch break: Other planets, even moons have their own weather
As you are learning about the planets, remember images of Jupiter’s Giant Red Spot - the massive storm that has been raging for more than 300 years. A spacecraft also photographed six large storms with winds of around 225 mph (362 km/h) swirling around Jupiter’s south pole. That’s stronger than the maximum sustained wind any hurricane (called a tropical cyclone or typhoon in some parts of the world) has whipped up.
How about weather on other planets and moons? Because Mercury is so close to the sun, temperatures during the day can soar up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit (427 degrees Celsius). However, Mercury doesn’t have the greenhouse effect that the Earth has, so NASA said that temperatures can drop as low as -300 F (-184 C) at night -- talk about a weather whiplash!
Scientists believe that Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, has seasons and clouds that produce rain. Why don’t you see humans there? The rain falling from these clouds is actually the chemical methane. In addition, it is way too cold to live on Saturn and its moons. The average temperature of Saturn is about -285 F (-176 C)! The lowest temperature on Earth was -128.6 F (-89.2 C) on Antarctica.
An outline of the continental United States is superimposed over the central cyclone and an outline of Texas is superimposed over the newest cyclone at Jupiter's south pole give a sense of their immense scale. The hexagonal arrangement of the cyclones is large enough to dwarf the Earth. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM)
🛎 April 21 – Morning Bell: So, meteorologists do care about meteor showers
We talked last week about how meteorologists don’t study meteors, but why are you seeing information about a meteor shower on AccuWeather.com? The main reason is that if there are clouds in the way, you can’t see a meteor shower.
Many people find astronomical events fascinating, such as solar and lunar eclipses, and meteorologists are always looked to for a weather forecast to say if the sky will be clear or completely covered by clouds.
Some meteorologists enjoy learning about meteor showers, eclipses and other events and share that information with others. Think about President Ronald Reagan. He was an actor and then became President of the United States. When you are deciding what you want to be when you grow up, you don’t have to pick one thing!
Several Leonids meteors are seen streaking through the sky over Joshua Tree National Park, California, looking to the south in the Southern California desert in this approximately 25-minute time exposure on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2001. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
📓 April 20 – 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 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.
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 20 – Weather Lab: Cook up one ingredient for tornadoes at home
While we showed you how to make a tornado in a bottle at home last week, here’s how you can cook up one key ingredient to get a tornado to form in your kitchen – with adult supervision.
Earlier, you learned that warm and moist air and something to lift that unstable air are on the recipe card for tornadoes. The most destructive tornadoes form after a time when there is essentially a lid on the atmosphere that delays when the air at the ground can rise higher up into the air. That allows the unstable air near the ground to stew and build up more energy. When a cold front sweeps in, it takes off that lid and lets the energy to surge upward to form a supercell thunderstorm and tornado.
Now, let’s see that energy stewing and surging upward in action by boiling water on the stove. You will also need a lid to put on top of the pot and an adult to help you out.
When the water begins to boil, put the lid on top of the pot. Some steam will escape, but the lid will start to shake as the warm and moist air tries to get out. Think of that as the unstable air stewing near the ground and building energy. Have an adult take the lid off (pretending they are a cold front) and watch as the steam soars upward like the unstable air would do to form a thunderstorm. You can even blow the steam a little at the bottom to see if you can get it to twist like a tornado.
📚 April 20 – Study Hall: Mother Nature’s recipe for tornadoes
We talked earlier that tornadoes can form almost anywhere if the right ingredients come together – so what are those ingredients? If you are Mother Nature and want to cook up a tornado, you would find the following on your recipe card:
Source of moisture, typically from an ocean
Warm and moist air (which is called instability)
Something to lift that warm and moist air up (such as a cold front)
Twisting motion in the air (called wind shear)
The last ingredient is the key to how an incredibly strong thunderstorm can spawn a tornado. To get that twisting motion in the air, the winds at the ground have to be blowing in a direction different than way above your head. Let’s visualize one of the most common examples of wind shear in Tornado Alley – winds from the south blowing near the ground with winds from the southwest or west much higher up.
The more you have of these ingredients, the greater the chance for a tornado to become very destructive and have a high ranking on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
🌎 April 20 – History Class: Tornadoes around the world, just not in Antarctica
It’s no coincidence that most of the tornadoes you hear about occur in the United States, since that is where the majority of tornadoes across the globe happen. However, there has been a tornado on every continent except one: Antarctica!
On April 9, 1993, several tornadoes tore through India and killed 100 people. This proves that even if you don’t live in Tornado Alley, you should always know the difference between a tornado watch and warning and know what to do when a tornado threatens.
Tune into the AccuWeather podcast below to learn more about the deadly tornado that struck India in 1993 and what other areas of the world endure frequent tornadoes.
📚 April 20 – Pop quiz! Does living in a city or on a mountain make you safe from tornadoes?
We must be the worst teachers, starting Monday with a pop quiz! But here is your test - which of the following is true when it comes to tornadoes:
Green clouds indicate a tornado is forming
Seeking shelter under an overpass is safe when a tornado is threatening
Tornadoes only form on flat land
Cities are safe from tornadoes
There has been a tornado in every state in America
Here is a hint - only one of the above is true. Let’s eliminate the first one. Green clouds can tell you that a strong thunderstorm is approaching, but not necessarily a tornado.
Let’s eliminate two more by thinking about the tornado that hit Salt Lake City, Utah, on August 11, 1999. It struck both a city and went up and down a canyon. Tornadoes can form almost anywhere if the right ingredients come together. While a city may seem big to you, it’s actually a small dot on the map. Odds are higher that a tornado won’t hit a city, but it has happened and can again. So #3 and #4 cannot be the right answer.
That leaves us with #2 and #5 to choose from. The answer is #5 -- there has been a tornado in every state in America. Even in Alaska, there have been four tornado sightings since 1950. Since #5 was right, that means that you should never seek shelter underneath an overpass due to stronger winds and debris that can get thrown up against the bridge.
Reed Timmer witnessed a tornado blasting right over an overpass in Clinton, Mississippi, on April 15, 2011. (Photo/Reed Timmer)
Additional experiments and reporting by Jason Nicholls.
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