The Science of Hurricanes

The Science of Hurricanes


Using this esheet, you will examine different scientific aspects of hurricanes, all in an effort to begin to understand the nature of motion—particularly how changes in speed or direction of motion are caused by forces.


To begin, you should view three videos of Hurricane Harvey that show the movement of this devastating hurricane that hit the southern United States in 2017.

Video 1: This is the pathway of Harvey from its origin through its development to a hurricane to when it finally broke apart, as depicted by Force Thirteen.

Video 2: This is a video of Hurricane Harvey from The New York Times. It shows the path of Hurricane Harvey from Wednesday, August 23, through Thursday, August 31, 2017. 

Video 3: This is a video from NASA of Harvey with colored areas to show rain. Red shows greater rainfall than yellow, which is more than green or blue.

Video 4: This video from the Associated Press explains how much rain fell during Hurricane Harvey and why the flooding was as bad as it was.

As you watch each movie, think about answers these questions:

  • In the second movie, what is the direction of the hurricane's motion?
  • What land areas does Harvey move over?
  • What do you think causes hurricanes (or other things in life) to speed up or slow down?
  • Do you think hurricanes speed up or slow down while over land?
  • What do you think it was like in Texas on the day Hurricane Harvey struck this area?

Now go to the Anatomy of a Hurricane page to learn more about hurricanes.

Pay special attention to the picture. Look at the different arrows and parts of the hurricane. Read about the five Storm Elements next to the picture.

Be prepared to answer the following questions in a class discussion:

  • Look at arrow #1. What is that? What is going on there?
  • Look at arrow #2. What is that? What is going on there?
  • Look at arrow #3. What is that? What is going on there?
  • Look at arrow #4. What is that? What is going on there?
  • Look at arrow #5. What is that? What is going on there?
You can also look at this video of the Anatomy of a Hurricane to see these storm elements in action.

Now go to the article Hurricane Harvey Slams into Southern Texas. Scroll down the page and read the section about Hurricane Harvey and look at some of the pictures and news videos.

As you read the article and view the images, be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What level (or category) of storm was Hurricane Harvey when it made landfall in Texas?
  • What do you think the weather was like there on the day Hurricane Harvey hit?
  • How would you describe the damage the hurricane created in the area?
  • What do you think happened to the people living in those areas? What do you think will happen to them in the future?

You can read more about hurricanes from the Weather Wiz Kids. You and your teacher can discuss what you learn.

Knowledge Check

As part of your review, be prepared to answer questions like these about hurricanes and how forces change the speed and direction of motion:

  • What are hurricanes?
  • Where do they come from? What are they made of?
  • What do you think causes the motion of hurricanes?
  • What causes hurricanes, storms, or things in general to change directions when moving?
  • What happens to hurricanes when wind currents become stronger? Why?
  • Why do hurricanes slow down and lose power when moving over land?

Optional Activity: Take out a piece of paper and write at the top of it, “Today, I learned these things about hurricanes and motion…” Then list as many facts as you can remember about hurricanes, including insights you learned about how hurricanes form, move, and affect the land areas they encounter.

This esheet is a part of the Hurricanes 1: The Science of Hurricanes lesson.

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