Tracking Hurricanes

Tracking Hurricanes


You have been studying the basic elements of a hurricane, and the fact that natural forces like air pressure, water, and wind currents cause hurricanes to change speed and direction of motion. You will now have the chance to look at the technologies that help identify and track hurricanes to help protect people and societies.


First, read the Public Awareness page from WW2010, which explains how technology helps to track hurricanes to help protect people and societies.

As you're reading, think about the following questions:

  • Is public awareness about hurricanes better today than it was in the early 1900s?
  • Does this change in hurricane awareness help people today? If so, how?
  • What kinds of technology help scientists to identify and follow hurricanes?
  • What do meteorologists do when they see a tropical storm using radars and satellites?
  • What is the difference between a Hurricane Watch and a Hurricane Warning?
  • Who are hurricane hunters? What do they do?
  • Is the job of a hurricane hunter something you would ever do? Why or why not?

Next, look at the Tropical Cyclone Tracker. Your teacher will give directions on how to use this tropical storm tracking system.

Select and watch the various Big Hurricanes (lower left side of tracking screen) to see how they change from small, slow tropical depressions, or storms, into fast, high-category hurricanes.

As you click on and watch the hurricanes, think about answers to these questions:

  • Watch Hurricane Georges from 1998. How does this hurricane begin and end?
  • Watch Hurricane Fran from 1996. What happens to this hurricane when it reaches the United States?
  • Watch Hurricane Andrew from 1992. What is the highest category this hurricane reached?

Now, look at the Hurricane! site. This will give you daily forecasts on the latest storm developments around the world, including detailed information, radar and satellite images, and maps on past and present storms.

First click on the different basins on the map to see if there are any current tropical storm developments happening around the world.

Be prepared to answer questions like:

  • What is happening today in the West Pacific?

Continue on the Hurricane! site and click on the Maps link on the upper, left-hand side menu. A current temperature map of North America will appear. Look it over and be prepared to answer these questions:

  • What does this map do?
  • What do the colors represent?
  • In what part of the United States is it the hottest today? The coolest?
  • How does the temperature in Texas compare to that of California?

Now look at the tabs at the top of the page and click on the radar tab, where you will be able to see a current radar image of North America. Go ahead and "enlarge" the radar image, and then "animate this map" to full effect (the buttons for enlarging and animating the map are on the right side of the map). Be prepared to answer these questions:

  • Do you see any storms moving over the United States? Where?
  • Look at the scale at the bottom of the map. What kind of storms are they? Are they serious?
  • In what direction are they moving?
  • How do radar images like this help scientists and meteorologists track and measure the weather?
  • Do you think scientists would be able to follow the weather without machines like radars or satellites? Why or why not?

From the same page, click on the satellite tab at the top of the screen; a current satellite image of North America should appear. Also enlarge and animate this map before thinking about answers to these questions:

  • By the way, what are satellites? What do they do?
  • Which regions of the United States have the most clouds?
  • Look at the scale below the map. Where are the highest clouds and coldest weather? In what direction are they moving?
  • Which areas have the clearest weather?
  • How accurate do you think the information is on the screen? Why?

Knowledge Check

To better determine your understanding of the lesson as a whole, be prepared to answer these questions:

  • In what ways does technology help us understand things like hurricanes?
  • How do measuring instruments like maps, radar, and satellites help people to study hurricanes?
  • Why do scientists measure and compare things like hurricanes?
  • Why have people turned to technology to help them study things like hurricanes?
  • What would our lives be like if we couldn't forecast the daily weather and things like hurricanes?
  • In what other areas of life can technology like this be used?

This esheet is a part of the Hurricanes 2: Tracking Hurricanes lesson.

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