AccuWeather School: Week 6
📓 May 15 - 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 cases from John and 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.
📚 May 15 - Study Hall: Time to pretend we are weather detectives!
OK, time to put on your thinking caps – let’s pretend we are a forensic meteorologist and are tasked with determining whether lightning could have set a hay field on fire. Let’s listen hear more about the case from AccuWeather’s Senior Forensic Meteorologist John Lavin:
What do you think happened? Watch below to see if you solved the case!
🎭 May 15 - Story Time: An exploding food truck – and other odd weather cases
The types of cases that forensic meteorologists are asked to look into can be quite unusual – cases that involve divorce matters, cows and hay catching on fire on its own are just a few!
Another odd case was the time heat led to an exploding food truck! Hear this story told by AccuWeather forensic meteorologists, Dr. Joe Sobel and Steve Wistar, in the AccuWeather Everything Under the Sun podcast below – it’s quite an interesting case!
🛎 May 15 - Morning Bell: All rise – meteorology court is now in session!
Most meteorologists you may know predict the weather, either on TV or the radio. However, the job of some meteorologists is to help solve crimes or other court cases – these weather detectives are known as forensic meteorologists.
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!
Watch this clip from a national TV show when one man was found guilty of murder after AccuWeather’s Dr. Joe Sobel used dew to prove that a suspect on trial for murder was lying about what he said happened the night of the crime – think about that, something as simple as the dew that gets your feet wet when you walk through your yard put a bad person away in prison!
The gavel at the Norris Legislative Chamber in the State Capitol on the opening day of the Nebraska legislative session, in Lincoln, Neb., Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
📓 May 14 - Homework: Volcanoes can make glass? (It’s true!)
Before you go searching online to buy a glass mug made out of volcanic glass, the amount of glass that is produced is so small – but shows the power of volcanoes.
It’s actually the lava from volcanoes that makes tiny glass particles – and the volcano has to be near an ocean. When the lava hits the ocean, a dense white steam known as laze forms.
The steam from a boiling pot of water isn’t too dangerous as long as you don’t put your face right near the hot pot. However, the laze steam is made up of hot water vapor, toxic gases and tiny shards of volcanic glass – known as Pele's Seaweed.
Instead of being able to pick up the glass and make a mug out of it, people who are too close to the laze can develop breathing issues or it may bother their eyes or skin – definitely something to stay away from!
The Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatau) volcano sends up powerful clouds of hot gasses, rocks, and lava as a fishing boat is moored offshore on Nov. 8, 2007. (AP Photo/Ed Wray)
After a day of learning that volcanoes can harm planes, cool the Earth and produce harmful glass in the air, what good comes from volcanoes? Their ash can create some of the prettiest sunsets!
🔬 May 14 - Weather Lab: Make your own volcano!
When a volcano shows signs that it is about to erupt, people who live nearby may have to evacuate to make sure they can escape the dangerous ash or mudslides (called lahars) that can happen.
Since we don’t want to get near a real volcano when it is erupting, here’s a volcano you can make at home – well, outside your home, since it’s a messy experiment! As AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls demonstrates, all you need is a plastic bowl or pot and mix together water, 3 to 4 tablespoons of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of dish soap. You can also add your favorite food coloring. Don’t pour in the 1 cup of vinegar until you are ready for your volcano to erupt!
📚 May 14 - Study Hall: Volcanoes are very dangerous for planes
Earlier we learned that volcanoes can cool the Earth, but that doesn’t happen often since only the most powerful volcanoes can do that. However, there is another way a volcano can impact you, even if you don’t live near one.
The ash spewed from volcanoes is very dangerous to airplanes. It can cause engines to fail or damage parts of the plane, including the cockpit – the pilots then wouldn’t be able to see the runway to land.
The good news is that scientists, including meteorologists, closely monitor where ash will travel after a volcanic eruption – keeping airplanes out of harm’s way. Your flight might get delayed or canceled, but it is necessary to make sure you stay safe!
🎭 May 14 - Story Time: Volcano creates ‘The Year Without a Summer’
Can you imagine snow in June and frost and freezing temperatures in July and August? If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s winter during these months, chilly weather is not unusual. However, 1816 was “The Year Without a Summer” across North America and Europe after the massive eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora.
Let’s gather around and learn more about the very unusual weather that stemmed from one volcano on the opposite side of the world in the AccuWeather Podcast:
🛎 May 14 - Morning Bell: Volcanoes powerful enough to change weather
This isn’t a scene from a science fiction movie – it’s true that the most powerful 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)
📓 May 13 - Homework: Pick your favorite spot to go swimming
When it gets hot, what is your favorite thing to do to cool off? Sitting in the front of the air conditioner, eating ice cream or going swimming?
We are sure many of you picked going swimming, but did you know cold water will do more than just cause you to shiver when you jump in? You could suffer a dangerous illness known as cold water shock if you dive into some rivers, lakes and the ocean.
The late spring and early summer is the most common time when the water may be surprisingly cold – and too cold to enter. Water takes longer than the air to warm up. That especially true if melting snow from mountains is seeping into rivers.
As tempting as it is to run and jump in, the best thing to do is to slowly walk into cold water to get your body used to it – just don’t stay in too long as that’s not good either!
📝 May 13 - Pop quiz! Mountains are closer to the sun, why aren’t they warmer than beaches?
The closer you stand next to a fire, the warmer you get. So why doesn’t that work with the sun? Mountains aren’t the warmest spots on Earth.
Mountains are the closest to the sun, but the farthest from the true way that the Earth warms. The sun does not heat the air directly. Instead, the sun warms the ground and that heat flows up and warms the air.
Yes, there is ground to warm on the top of mountains – but not as much as flatter places outside of the mountains. Also, air cools as it rises up from the ground – making the top of a mountain cooler than the bottom! That’s why there can still be snow on some mountain peaks for people to go skiing on the Fourth of July!
(Photo/ Arapahoe Basin, Ian Zinner)
⛹️♂️ May 13 - Recess: It’s actually summer already!
Wait – it’s the middle of May, how can it be summer?
There are actually three summers – the summer season that you are most familiar with is astronomical summer. The first day of astronomical summer in the Northern Hemisphere is when the sun appears to be directly over the Tropic of Cancer.
While we are still a month away from astronomical summer starting on June 20, solar summer is in full swing! Solar summer is the quarter of the year that has the greatest amount of sunshine. It makes sense that the middle of solar summer marks the first day of astronomical summer.
And there is even a third summer – meteorological summer, marking the warmest months of the year from June to August (again, in the Northern Hemisphere). Isn’t it odd that the warmest time of the year isn’t the same as when we see the most sunshine? The Earth takes a little longer to warm up from when solar summer starts.
A child reacts to water pouring over her as she stands in the International Fountain at the Seattle Center during a heat wave on Aug. 2, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
⭐️ May 13 - Gold Star: And the winner for a new hurricane name is …
Everyone gets a gold star for your recent homework assignment, which was to send in your choices for a new hurricane name to replace deadly Hurricane Dorian from last year.
Out of the nearly 50 different names we received, Dominic amassed the most votes!
Other popular names submitted were Damien, Donald and Dexter (which AccuWeather’s On-Air Broadcaster Dexter Henry enjoyed!)
The name had to begin with a “D” and be a boy’s name (the names go back and forth between male and female names). One more rule – you couldn’t pick David, Dean or Dennis. Those names have already been retired. Danny and Don were also out since they are already on the lists for next year and 2023.
Thank you for completing your homework on time. As far as what the official name will be, we have to wait until early 2021. The World Meteorological Organization will meet to decide if Dorian will definitely be retired and what name will replace it – stay tuned!
🔬 May 12 - Weather Lab: Defy the power of water!
Our lesson plan was full of surprises as we learned about the power of water, so here’s an easy experiment that is sure to have your parents saying, “Wow!”
All you need is a full glass of water and a piece of photo paper. See how AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls turns the glass upside down with only the piece of paper on the bottom – and no water comes out!
For this experiment, it’s the strength of air holding the water back. Even though it doesn’t feel like it, the air around us is pushing up against you, the glass and the paper. The air pushing up from underneath the paper is strong enough to hold the card onto the bottom of the glass and keep the water from spilling all over your kitchen!
Air pressure is strong and responsible for how weather systems move around the globe.
➗ May 12 - Math class: Water may be stronger than you think
The reason so many people die in floods each year is that they likely do not realize how strong moving water really is. You can jump around in a small puddle and get dirty all you want, but when the water is rushing through your yard or street, that is when you need to stay away.
Ask someone to hold a ruler up against your leg and mark off six inches from the ground. That’s not high at all, right? An adult can get knocked down by water that high when it is moving really fast.
Let’s use our multiplication skills and see what else fast-flowing water can move:
6x2 = 12 inches – Most cars
6x4 = 24 inches – Trucks and SUVs
You can see why it is too dangerous to walk or drive through flood waters – most flood deaths happen in vehicles. It’s not just how fast the water is moving that puts people in danger. Adults may try to drive over a bridge covered by flood waters, but they can’t see that the bridge has been washed away – very scary!
🎶 May 12 - Music class: Time to sing catchy ‘Turn Around, Don’t Drown’ song!
It’s easier to remember something with a catchy song – did you learn the alphabet by singing the A-B-C song? We talked earlier about how important it is to remember to “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” when you see flood waters, so here’s a song to get stuck in your head!
🛎 May 12 - Morning Bell: Are tornadoes or floods more deadly?
What weather are you scared of the most – tornadoes or thunder and lightning? Did you know that neither of those kill the most people in the United States on average?
Floods are actually more deadly than any other bad weather a thunderstorm produces, tornadoes included. From 2009 to 2018, floods killed an average of 95 people each year, compared to 89 tornado deaths yearly. Last year, floods killed about 20 more people than tornadoes.
You may see videos of people swimming or wakeboarding in flood waters or even driving in high water – you should never do that. You’ve been told “Stop-Drop-Roll” if you catch on fire or “Stranger Danger” if you meet someone you don’t know. Here’s another one to remember – “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” when you see high water.
Let’s wait to go swimming in a real swimming pool. It’s definitely safer and cleaner – you never know what wild animals could also be in flood water.
Flooding at the University of Lynchburg on Aug. 3, 2018. (Facebook photo/ Joni L. Organ)
📓 May 11 - Homework: You decide! Name a hurricane
When a hurricane kills many people and/or causes a lot of damage, its name is retired – meaning it will never be used again.
Do you remember Hurricane Dorian from last year? It killed more than 200 people in the northwestern Bahamas. Most likely, the name “Dorian” will be retired before last year’s list of names is repeated in 2025.
So, your homework is to pick a name that would replace Dorian. The name has to begin with a “D” and be a boy’s name (the names go back and forth between male and female names). One more rule – you can’t pick David, Dean or Dennis. Those names have already been retired. Danny and Don are also out since they are already on the lists for next year and 2023.
What name did you pick? Send us your ideas on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #AccuWeatherSchool.
Powerful Hurricane Dorian made its second landfall in the Bahamas, on Great Abaco Island near Marsh Harbour on Sept. 1, 2019. (AccuWeather)
🎭 May 11 - Story Time: Would you fly into a powerful hurricane?
People are told to leave their homes before a major hurricane strikes, so why would anyone want to fly into a hurricane? Just as firefighters will run into a burning building to save you, hurricane hunters will fly into these powerful and dangerous storms for you.
The information hurricane hunters collect from a hurricane is used by meteorologists to help them figure out where the hurricane will track in the future – and be able to tell you and your family how to prepare and stay safe.
Capt. Kristie Twining (left), Cmdr. Rebecca Waddington (right), and Lt. Lindsey Norman (front) became the NOAA's first all-female three-pilot flight crew in August. (Twitter / NOAA_HurrHunter)
Let’s gather around and hear the first all-female crew of hurricane hunters share their stories of flying into Hurricane Dorian last year in the AccuWeather podcast below. These are very brave ladies!
🔬 May 11 - Weather Lab: Watch water magically rise on its own
Here’s something that defies gravity – watch water rise up in a jar using something as simple as a candle. Doesn’t seem possible? Let’s try it.
You’ll need a small shallow plate, candle, glass or jar, lighter, water (dyed with your favorite food coloring), and adult supervision. Once you have all of your supplies, watch what AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls does to make the water rise up in the bottle.
When the flame goes out, the air inside the bottle cools and the air pressure lowers. Higher pressure outside of the bottle pushes down on the water in the dish, forcing it up in the bottle until the pressure is the same inside and outside of the bottle.
The air was moving from high to low pressure – the same thing happens with the weather. Winds will always blow from where nice weather is (high pressure/blue Hs on weather maps) to hurricanes and storms (low pressure/red Ls on weather maps).
📚 May 11 - Study Hall: Is there a force-field against hurricanes around California?
There are beaches along the West Coast of the United States, but why do you never see hurricanes hit California as they do Florida, North Carolina or any states along the Gulf of Mexico or East Coast? The answer lies in the ocean.
While water has no trouble getting warm enough for a hurricane to form in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore of the East Coast, it’s a different story along the West Coast. The Pacific Ocean along the coast of Southern California typically doesn’t get any higher than 70 F (21 C) – so that’s the force-field that protects California from getting hit by a hurricane.
However, one hurricane overcame the ocean’s force-field and came very close to San Diego way back in early October 1858, and there is only one time in history when a tropical storm made landfall in Southern California – in September 1939.
🛎 May 11 - Morning Bell: Birthday candles can help us learn about hurricanes
What do birthday candles have to do with hurricanes? Let’s look at the recipe card for how hurricanes form and find out.
The first ingredient for hurricanes is warm water of at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.7 degrees Celsius). Just like your car won’t run if you don’t put gas in it, warm water is the fuel for hurricanes.
Up next on the recipe card is wind. Hurricanes produce really strong winds that can destroy homes, but winds over the area where the hurricane is forming or move through have to be light. Time to get out our birthday candles:
“If you were to try to light birthday candles in front of a fan, it would blow out the candles,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bob Larson said. “Similarly, if there is a lot of wind high in the atmosphere [air above our heads], it will not let the hurricane form.” Big word time – these winds that can stop a hurricane are known as strong wind shear.
Additional experiments and reporting by Jason Nicholls.
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