AccuWeather Summer Camp: Week 4
🔥 July 3 - Campfire Tales: Why is Fourth of July celebrated with fireworks?
Parades, picnics and fireworks – that basically sums up the Fourth of July holiday in the United States. If you love spending the evening of the holiday saying “oohhh” and “aahhh” as brilliant colors fill up the sky, you can thank what was written in a letter way back in 1776:
As far as whether you will enjoy a spectacular fireworks show – the weather plays a big role in that. We all know that rain and thunderstorms will spoil the show, but did you know that a calm night with no wind is not always the best for fireworks? Let’s find out more from AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert.
Here’s another fun firework tidbit – blue is the hardest color for fireworks experts (known as pyrotechnicians) to create.
🔬 July 3 - Invention Station: Make your own ‘fireworks’
Here’s a way you can throw a mini-fireworks show inside your home, and no fire is involved! Let’s see this fun experiment by AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls:
The “fireworks” were able to form in the jar since food coloring is made with water, and oil is less dense than water. That causes the oil to float on top of the water, while the food coloring will eventually fall through the oil, and come out bursting like a firework into the water!
Another view of how your "fireworks" will look in this fun activity. (Photo by AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Krissy Pydynowski)
🥕 July 2 - Gardening Time! Veggies are tasty, fun to grow!
Even if you don’t agree with the first part of the title about vegetables being tasty, it is fun to have a garden and watch everything grow from seeds to food that you can pick and eat. Let’s see what AccuWeather Meteorologist Chris Nallan has blossoming in his garden:
It’s important to make sure you give your garden plenty of water if rain is not in your forecast. Did you know that the morning is the best time to water your vegetables? That’s right, and it’s good to space out the veggies to help them grow big and so they get enough water – just like you would, plants get really thirsty sitting out all day with the hot summer sun beating down on them.
One last thing – don’t forget to put on your sunscreen before spending much time in your garden!
🔎 July 2 - Weather Detectives! What’s underneath a dam’s lake?
When dams are built and they slow the path of rivers and creeks, land that was once dry and above water gets flooded allowing the lake to form. There have been times when officials relocated whole communities since the land they lived on would be flooded when a dam is built – with the intention that more families will be saved by flooding the dam should prevent downstream.
In the early spring, officials lower the levels of the water behind the dam you saw earlier to help the aquatic life in the lake. When that happens, visitors to Bald Eagle State Park can see traces of the parts of Howard, Pennsylvania, that were flooded when the dam was completed in 1969.
Check out the photos below of the old roads that are now underwater when the dam is at its normal level:
One purpose of this dam and many others is to be a wall against floodwaters, for those on the other side of the dam, when heavy rain strikes.
Early July marks the anniversary of the worst flooding to date in the history of North Dakota. Let’s gather around the campfire and learn more by listening to AccuWeather's This Date in Weather History podcast:
🏕️ July 2 - Excursion Day: This dam can hold 32 billion gallons of water
Have you ever gotten up close to a dam before? If not, you are in luck as AccuWeather Summer Camp is going on another excursion:
The power of dams is truly amazing. Think of how much water dams are holding back – as we talked about earlier, the dam that you saw in the video above can hold back 32 billion gallons of water, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. Have you heard of the Hoover Dam near Las Vegas? That can hold nearly 10 trillion gallons of water!
If you took all of the water out of Lake Mead, which Hoover Dam forms, a foot of water would cover the entire state of Pennsylvania, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.
While the lakes that dams form make are great places to go swimming or take a ride in a boat, many dams prevent places downstream from flooding when heavy rain pours down. Dams also serve as a water supply for some areas and can even generate electricity.
Wait a minute – weren’t we all taught that electricity and water make a dangerous combination? While you should never ever put a hair dryer or something else plugged into a bathtub, dams can actually turn rushing water into electricity for us to use! Back to Hoover Dam, it creates enough power for 1.3 million people across California, Nevada and Arizona each year.
🔥 July 1 - Campfire Tales: Best time to see the Milky Way Galaxy is now
Actually, any night that you see a star in the sky, you are seeing a small part of the Milky Way Galaxy – the galaxy that Earth and all of us live in! However, where the Earth is located on its journey around the sun in the summer allows us to see the best of the Milky Way in the sky – that’s when AccuWeather Digital Journalist and Meteorologist Brian Lada filmed this stunning time lapse:
How many stars do you think make up the Milky Way Galaxy? Here’s a guess – it’s in the billions. The answer is between 200 and 400 billion stars, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Samuhel.
“What we refer to as the Milky Way that you view in the night sky is actually the center of the galaxy,” Dave said. “The milky-looking cloud that stretches from horizon to horizon is the galactic center of the Milky Way, and it’s made up of lots and lots of stars.”
Dave also gives great tips of where to look in the sky to see the Milky Way, but one key is to take a trip to places that get really dark at night. Light pollution spoils many star-gazing nights in bigger towns and cities:
🔬 July 1 - Invention Station: Make your own hovercraft!
Here’s a fun experiment that seems perfect for astronomy day at AccuWeather Summer Camp – let’s make a hovercraft!
All you need is an old CD, a sports cap or a bottle cap with a hole in it, a hot glue gun (ask an adult for help or use regular glue) and a balloon, and then watch these instructions from AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls:
After you had fun with that activity, gather around and hear about some of the great astronomical shows happening this summer in the AccuWeather Everything Under the Sun podcast, starting with this weekend’s lunar eclipse:
🪐 July 1 - Space Exploration: Earth is farthest from the sun in summer?
If you had to guess what time of year the Earth is closest to the sun, would you say January? If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, that doesn’t seem to make sense since that is a colder month. But actually, January is the right answer.
As weird as it sounds for those of you living in the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth is farthest from the sun when it’s your summer and closest to the sun when it’s your winter. The reverse is true for the Southern Hemisphere. Let’s grab some sidewalk chalk to understand this a bit more:
Sorry, we asked you such a tough question to start the day! When it comes to why we have seasons on Earth, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Samuhel sums it up best: “It’s not how close you are to the sun; it’s what angle the sun’s rays reach you” – and that is due to the tilt of the Earth on its axis. It just happens to work out that the summer season lines up with when the Earth is at its closest point to the sun in the Southern Hemisphere.
Here’s some big words to add to your dictionary – when the Earth is at its farthest point from the sun, that’s called aphelion and will occur on July 4 this year. Perihelion happens in early January when the Earth is closest to the sun.
🔥 June 30 - Campfire Tales: How do double rainbows form?
It’s one thing to see a pretty rainbow high in the sky, but you could be treated to a double rainbow at times. Let’s go rainbow hunting and find out how these art masterpieces are created:
When the sunlight takes two bounces on a trampoline inside the water droplet (the big word for that is refracted), the result is a faded, double rainbow with the color pattern flipped. For the main rainbow, red is always on the outside edge of the arc, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and purple (you know the phrase “Roy G. Biv”). Check out a double rainbow the next time you see it – the colors are backwards!
However, don’t go looking for an extra pot of gold at the end of a double rainbow. There’s nothing at the end of the rainbow because they aren’t solid objects. They are optical illusions – something your eyes can see but you can’t touch. If you try to run toward a rainbow, it will seem like it keeps moving away from you!
Double rainbow in the sky after the rain. (Borisb17/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
🎨 June 30 - Art Station: Make your own rainbow at home
Making a rainbow at home is pretty easy. If it’s sunny outside, spray a garden hose (not at a sibling!) with the sun at your back and watch a rainbow form.
You can even create a rainbow inside with only a flashlight and a CD (your parents should have one from the 1990s). Shine the flashlight on the back of the CD and play with the angles until you see the display of colors. By adjusting the angles, you are causing the light to bend in a way that is necessary for a real rainbow to form outside. This experiment works best in a dark room with a white wall.
Once you are done with this experiment, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls shows you how to make another rainbow at home with a few more simple items.
🔎 June 30 - Weather Detectives! Why don’t you see rainbows around lunch in the summer?
Have you ever noticed that rainbows typically only follow rain and thunderstorms early in the morning or later in the day during the summer? It’s all about the sun!
“[Sunlight] has to pass through the water droplets at a low angle to make a rainbow,” according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Samuhel. From sunrise to mid-morning and then again from late afternoon to sunset are the best opportunities for you to see a rainbow. The sun is too high in the sky around lunchtime for a rainbow to form in the warmer months.
The sun sits lower in the sky during lunch in the winter, but the pop-up showers and thunderstorms with breaks of sunshine in between that are perfect rainbow-making weather aren’t usually around that time of year. Instead, we see blankets of clouds with steadier bands of rain or snow and not many rainbows.
🔥 June 29 - Campfire Tales: Up close view of the tornado-destroyed Kinzua Bridge
At the Kinzua Bridge State Park in northwestern Pennsylvania, you can get very close to the damage left behind when the railroad bridge that stood 301 feet tall took a direct hit by a tornado in July 2003.
Part of the remaining bridge was made into a skywalk that allows us to stand 225 feet above the ground and look down at the destruction (we hope you aren’t afraid of heights!). The other end of the bridge was left untouched, and you can see the rails that were pulled and twisted as the tornado swept through:
The Kinzua Bridge Viaduct was the highest railroad bridge in the world when it was completed in 1882, according to the state park. It was first built of iron, but as trains got bigger and heavier, the bridge was rebuilt out of steel in 1900 – it then weighed 6.7 million pounds!
In addition to the bridge being used for train traffic, people were allowed to walk across the span up until the summer of 2002 (just a year before the tornado hit). Inspectors had found that the sections of the steel towers had rusted through, making it dangerous for people and trains to cross the bridge.
Work to repair the bridge started in February 2003, but that came to an end when the tornado swept through. The debris left behind in this state park allows us to see firsthand the true power of tornadoes.
🎭 June 29 - Story Time: Strength of the tornado that hit Kinzua Bridge
Look at the photos of the 11 destroyed pillars of the Kinzua Bridge Viaduct that lay across the valley floor in northwestern Pennsylvania. How strong do you think the tornado was that caused all of this damage back in July 2003? Remember, the state park told us that the bridge was made of steel and weighed about 6.7 million pounds.
Are you thinking maybe a tornado that had an EF4 or EF5 ranking? Actually, it was an F1 tornado with winds of 73-112 mph that destroyed the bridge (this tornado occurred before the Enhanced Fujita Scale was used, that is why there isn’t an “E” in front of F1). This proves that all tornadoes should be taken seriously, and you need to seek shelter as soon as a tornado warning is issued for your community.
Tornadoes can also occur anytime of the year when all of the ingredients on a tornado recipe card are present. However, there are certain times of the spring and summer when tornadoes tend to hit parts of the United States more often than the rest of the year. Want to know when that time is where you live? Find out by listening to this AccuWeather Podcast:
🏕️ June 29 - Excursion Day: Tour of railroad bridge demolished by a tornado
On the morning of July 21, 2003, the Kinzua Bridge Viaduct stood 301 feet tall over a creek in northwestern Pennsylvania. By the end of the day, this steel railroad bridge that weighed around 6.7 million pounds was reduced to ruins after taking a direct hit by a tornado.
Eleven pillars of the bridge were ripped from their concrete foundation and tossed onto the ground – a sight that you can still see to this day by visiting Kinzua Bridge State Park. The park converted part of the remaining bridge into a 225-foot-high skywalk that overlooks the destruction, and you are allowed to walk down in the valley and get close to the destroyed pillars.
The skywalk at Kinzua Bridge State Park allows visitors to overlook the towers that were brought down by the devastating tornado. (Photo/Kristina Pydynowski)
Want to see the true power of this tornado but can’t make a trip to northwestern Pennsylvania? AccuWeather Summer Camp has you covered, as we take you on a virtual excursion into the park:
Additional experiments and reporting by Jason Nicholls.
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