AccuWeather School: Week 8
📓 May 29 - Homework: Play with your food (and learn about the air!)
You’re told not to play with your food, but here’s a good reason to – so you can learn more about the air around us!
The next time you are at a restaurant or a party and see ketchup packets, grab a few. You will need those along with water and a one-liter bottle for this experiment. First, test the ketchup packets to make sure they float (as some don’t) and then fold it lengthwise to get it inside the bottle. Fill the bottle completely full with water and put on the lid.
The ketchup packet will float at first, but watch happens when AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls squeezes the bottle.
How did he make the ketchup packet sink? The packet will first float because of the tiny air bubbles that get trapped inside when it’s sealed at the factory. When Jason squeezes the bottle, the air (like all gases) is easier to squeeze than water – so the force of the squeeze pushes on the tiny air bubbles and shrinks them. The ketchup packet becomes more dense than the water and sinks!
🎓 May 29 - AP class: More to radar than seeing snow, rain and tornadoes
Radar is very important to all of us – we can see when rain or snow is headed toward our communities, and if there is a tornado forming.
What else can radars tell meteorologists to help them keep you safe from bad weather? Let’s find out more from AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert:
⛹️♂️ May 29 - Recess: Is the wind blowing toward me or away from me?
Wind frequently blows around you, and meteorologists always tell you the wind direction. However, some people aren’t sure how to know whether that is the direction the wind is blowing from or to.
Neil Harper from the U.K. reached out with a question posted on Twitter and said, "I often hear that there will be Northerly or Westerly winds in the weather reports. Does that mean they are coming from that direction or moving in that direction?"
Here’s a simple way to know which is which:
Direction that ends in -ly (northerly, easterly, etc.) = wind is blowing from that way
Direction that ends in -ward (westward, southward) = wind is blowing toward that way (just remember -- if it ends in -ward, it will go toward that direction)
🎨 May 29 - Art Class: 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.
🛎 May 29 - Morning Bell: What makes hailstones so damaging?
Your homework last week was to send in weather questions since AccuWeather is home to more than 100 meteorologists, so who better to ask to get answers!
One of the questions we received what makes hailstones so damaging:
The answer lies in the strength of a thunderstorm and how much air is rushing from the ground into its center – called an updraft.
Once a hailstone forms, it will take a ferris wheel ride within the thunderstorm cloud. The updraft kicks off the hailstone’s ride by pushing it up higher into the cloud. When it gets to the top of the cloud, gravity takes over and sends it back toward the ground. If the updraft is strong enough, the hailstone will keep going around and around the thunderstorm cloud until gravity wins out.
An image of the record-setting hailstone that fell in Vivian, South Dakota, on July 23, 2010. (Photo/NWS Aberdeen)
“Due to this up-and-down motion in the cloud, a hailstone that is cut in half will commonly have rings of ice, similar to tree rings,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Renee Duff explains. The more times the hail goes around a thunderstorm cloud, the more rings and bigger it will get. The largest hailstone on record to pound the United States was about the size of a volleyball!
📓 May 28 - Homework: Chicken swimming in the ocean?
Let’s take a break from learning about water to watch this funny video of a chicken swimming in the ocean – you learn a lot in school, but you should also have fun!
That was funny, huh! It does teach us that animals, just like humans, have to find ways to stay cool when it’s hot. Elephants will give themselves mud baths to cool off and put on their version of sunscreen. Hippopotamus also apply their own sunscreen, but it is called “blood sweat” – while it sounds like something from a scary movie, it helps hippos from turning red from the sun!
(Anup Shah/Getty Images)
If your dog has light-colored fur or short hair, he or she can burn easily in the sun and needs sun protection before taking a walk. Also, don’t forget that your dog’s paws are not shoes. If your driveway or sidewalk is too hot for you to walk barefoot, it’s too hot for your dog’s feet – they will be happier if you walk with them in the grass instead.
🥤 May 28 - Water break! How much water do you need each day?
Water is not just important to the weather but also to you, me and everyone! While it may be hard to believe thanks to your muscles and bones, your body is roughly 60 percent water. No wonder why you may feel thirsty a lot during the day.
Young woman taking a break from her morning run to drink water. (Getty Images/gradyreese)
If you play a lot of sports or will be out in the sun more, your body sweats to cool you down – sweat is basically water from your body, so you need to drink more water. If you don’t drink enough water on a hot day, the heat can make you really sick – a condition called heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Not sure if you are drinking enough water? Your body will let you know! Don’t laugh, but the color of your urine is your body’s way of saying, “Good job with drinking enough water today” or “Drink more water, I’m thirsty!” Let’s watch the video below to learn more:
🌎 May 28 - History Class: A foot of heavy rain in less than two hours??
One of the key parts of the water cycle that we learned about earlier is rain falling from the clouds and filling up puddles, lakes and the ocean. The only problem with the water cycle is when too much rain pours down and triggers flash flooding.
How much is too much rain? It depends on your community – the ground in deserts cannot hold as much water and will flood easily, while the marshy soil in South Florida can absorb more rainfall. It also depends on the weather before soaking rain arrives – if your yard is soggy, you will notice more puddles the next time it rains.
No matter what the type of soil or location, would you agree that a foot of rain in less than two hours will definitely cause really bad flooding? That’s what happened in Brackettville, Texas, on this date in 1880. Let’s listen to the AccuWeather This Date in Weather History podcast to learn more:
🔬 May 28 - Weather Lab: See the water cycle in action at home!
Water is very important to weather – without it, clouds wouldn’t form and lead to rain, snow and thunderstorms (called precipitation).
To get clouds and precipitation, water is on an endless ferris wheel ride in the air – water first evaporates from puddles, lakes and oceans. As that water vapor rises up in the air, it cools and condenses and forms clouds. When the clouds fill up with enough water, you get rain or snow to fall back down to the ground – the ferris wheel or the water cycle keeps going around and around.
Let’s do a fun activity to see the ferris wheel ride that water takes in the air – but in your own home. Grab a zip lock bag and draw a scene similar to what you see in the photo above with a sharpie marker. Put some water in the bottom (you can drop in food coloring to make it easier to see) – you want enough water to cover the bottom but keep it less than a quarter of the bag.
Hang the bag in a window or where it will get sun for several days – tilting it slightly at an angle to show how water on Earth flows down to the ocean – and see what happens!
🛎 May 28 - Morning Bell: Journey to outer space to find rain!
Did you know that Earth is not the only place where rain falls? Scientists believe that Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, has seasons and clouds that produce rain. In fact, enough rain falls on Titan that lakes, rivers and oceans have been able to form.
The main problem is that it is not water falling from these clouds, it’s actually liquid methane – that can catch on fire easily!
An image of Saturn taken through a telescope on June 8, 2018. (Photo/Charlie Golden)
Need another reason why not to visit Titan and Saturn? It’s way too cold! Saturn is about 887 million miles away from the sun (compared to Earth’s 93 million miles) and has an average temperature of about -285 F (-176 C). The lowest temperature ever recorded on Earth was -128.6 F (-89.2 C) in Antarctica.
📓 May 27 - Homework: Which has been hotter? Miami or Alaska?
If you live in the United States, temperatures across Alaska will be lower than the rest of the country more often than not. Alaska is located closest to the North Pole, so that makes sense.
However, there are times when the weather seems to go topsy-turvy and people in Alaska are wearing shorts as other Americans are pulling jackets out of their closets. When Alaska is very warm, cold air normally over the state is pouring over another part of America – thanks to the jet stream. That was the case on Mother’s Day this year – Atlanta, Georgia, was cooler than Fairbanks, Alaska!
Here’s another tidbit to remember for when you are playing Jeopardy! in school – the hottest temperature ever recorded in Alaska is 100 degrees Fahrenheit at Fort Yukon way back in 1915. That’s the all-time record high in Miami, Florida!
The sun rises over the ice near Barrow, Alaska, for the first time in 66 days on Friday, Jan. 23, 2004. (AP Photo/Earl Finkler)
⛹️♂️ May 27 - Recess: Don’t be fooled by bank thermometers!
Next time you drive past a bank thermometer on a sunny day, compare the temperature you see with the one on your car thermometer or on your AccuWeather app. More than likely, that bank thermometer will read a much higher temperature – and one that is not right.
You get a gold star if you and your family have your outdoor thermometer positioned in the shade – that’s what meteorologists do.
Temperatures soared to the century on a bank thermometer in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2010. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
When a thermometer is in direct sunlight, it will read too warm. Remember that the sun heats the ground, and then the ground warms the air. A thermometer in the sun will heat up faster than the air and give you a wrong temperature.
So what’s wrong with bank thermometers? Two things – some are sitting directly in the sun and over top of pavement. What’s wrong with pavement? If you want to stay cool on a sunny day, is it smarter to wear a white or black shirt? White shirt, right? That’s because black clothes and pavement absorb more heat from the sun than white shirts and the grass – causing bank thermometers to read the highest temperatures around town.
🔬 May 27 - Weather Lab: Make your own fire extinguisher
We are spending the day talking about hot weather, so let’s make our own fire extinguishers to put out fires – with a few simple ingredients you can find around your home!
Head to your kitchen and look for a large glass, 5 tablespoons of vinegar, one-half tablespoon of baking soda and a small candle (which since we are dealing with fire, you should have adult supervision).
How was AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls able to put out the candle’s fire without pouring water on it or blowing it out?
When you mix vinegar and baking soda, carbon dioxide forms and sits inside the glass since it is more dense than air. The carbon dioxide spills out of the glass when you tip it over – starving the fire of oxygen – fire needs oxygen to breath like we do – and the flame will go out.
🌎 May 27 - History Class: How did people stay cool before air conditioning?
Let’s start history class with a pop quiz – when was the first electrical air conditioner invented? Way back before your grandparents and even great-grandparents were born! Willis Carrier created the machine that keeps all of us cool on hot summer days back in 1902.
But what about before 1902 – how did people stay cool? They used water fountains, ice blocks, high ceilings, front porches, and even naps in the shade.
Water fountains? We have those today! Water fountains back in the 1800s and early 1900s were very different from what you use today. They were deep enough that people could dunk their heads in to cool off.
Fast-forward to today and not everyone has an air conditioner – so what should they do when the weather gets hot? Run fans and keep shades down to keep out direct sunlight. Basements are not only great tornado shelters but also perfect spots to keep cool. If your house is getting too hot, it’s best to head to a air-conditioned building like a shopping center or library.
🛎 May 27 - Morning Bell: The all-time record high in which of these cities is higher than Miami, Florida?
New York City
If you guessed every city but Honolulu, you are right! Temperatures in all of the other cities have soared past Miami’s all-time record high of 100 degrees Fahrenheit:
Denver – 105 F
Minneapolis – 108 F
Seattle – 103 F
Chicago – 105 F
New York City – 106 F
Honolulu – 95 F
Miami is so far south, but why has it never been as hot as most of the other cities? The same reason Honolulu has never had a high near 100 F – the ocean is next to both Honolulu and Miami and keeps the temperature from soaring too high.
Wait a minute – New York City and Seattle aren’t too far from the ocean. That’s right, but what’s on the other side of Hawaii and Florida? More water. What’s on the other side of New York and Washington? A lot of land that can lead to sizzling heat when the air is flowing from the land to the ocean.
📓 May 26 - Homework: Watch how cold air rules the weather
One of the most important things to know when you are learning about the weather is that cold air always wins. It is more dense than warm air – meaning that when it wants to move into an area and make you feel colder, it will easily push warm air out of the way. It also works the other way – sometimes cold air will sit stubbornly over your community, blocking warmer air from sweeping in and letting you put away your jacket.
Is anyone confused by what it means that cold air is more dense than warm air? Let’s check out this experiment by AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls to understand what that means and see how cold air rules the weather.
When Jason put the bottle of cold water (colored in blue) on top of the bottle of warm water (colored in red), the two mixed together to create purple. Cold water (like cold air) is more dense and sinks down into the warm water. At the same time, warm water (like warm air) is less dense and rises up into the cold water.
When Jason switched the order of the bottles and had cold water on the bottom and warm water on the top, the colors stayed separate. Even though you would think that gravity would push the warm water down into the cold water, the dense cold water seems to put a shield up and won’t let the warm water in.
🌎 May 26 - History Class: Pneumonia fronts, backdoor fronts – they are real things!
Back-door front – This has nothing to do with you opening your back door and cooler air comes rushing into your house. This front is common in New England and the mid-Atlantic as the front backs in from the northeast, ushering in chilly air from the Atlantic Ocean.
Blue norther – A cold front that brings strong northerly winds and rapidly falling temperatures behind it, mainly to the southern Plains of the U.S.
Sea breeze – A sticky summer morning at the beach is replaced by a refreshing breeze off the beach thanks to the land heating up faster than the ocean. The warming air over the land rises and cooler air from the ocean rushes in to take its place – that’s how you get a sea breeze.
Pneumonia front – Sounds scary, huh? This front sends temperatures plunging along the western shores of Lake Michigan, including Chicago, in the spring and early summer as much colder air from the lakes sweeps onshore.
It was 12 years ago on this date when a pneumonia front swept through Chicago. Let’s find out more by listening to the AccuWeather This Date in Weather History Podcast below:
🎶 May 26 - Music class: Exact moment a cold front sweeps over your home
Calling all weather detectives – watch the video below and tell us the exact moment a cold front moves through.
It’s tricky since you don’t see any rain. Let’s re-watch the video, but keep our eyes on the sky – notice any changes?
When the video starts, you see the clouds moving away from us. Watch for the moment the clouds shift direction and start blowing from left to right on the screen – that’s when the cold front moved through.
Winds are responsible for moving clouds across the sky, and a change in wind direction means a cold front has moved through and you need to grab your jacket.
🎨 May 26 - Art Class: Let’s create weather map masterpieces
Grab a piece of paper and blue crayon and let’s draw one of the most common things on a weather map. Start by drawing a line that has a little swoop to it and add triangles onto it – you’ve just made a cold front!
The triangles point to the direction the colder air is headed. In the Northern Hemisphere, the triangles typically point to the east or south – it’s opposite in the Southern Hemisphere as the cold air flows up from the South Pole and around storms in a clockwise fashion (it's counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere).
Let’s complete our weather map (and practice writing letters) by putting an H (in blue crayon) on either side of the cold front for high pressure systems. Color blue around the H to the left of the cold front and red around the other H – colder air follows a cold front with warmer air ahead of it.
You can also draw rain along your cold front since they are responsible for why you need an umbrella some days. But, watch out for the thunderstorms and tornadoes that cold fronts can also trigger.
🛎 May 26 - Morning Bell: 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.
Ron Shawley of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, captured these snowflakes underneath a microscope in January 2018.
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.
Additional experiments and reporting by Jason Nicholls.
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