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Weather Watch
 
When will the next snowstorm occur?

Predicting snowstorms may be difficult, but it is very important to us. Severe storms can paralyze cities, strand travelers, collapse buildings and cause deaths. However, the snowstorms' effects aren't all bad. They can supply the necessary ingredients for great sledding and skiing. And, of course, they sometimes cause school to close for a day or two! Read about some of the challenges to transportation caused by snowstorms in America since the early 1700s in the article "All About Snow, Have Snow Shovel, Will Travel," which may be found on the National Snow and Ice Data Center Web site.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Association, or NOAA, Web page called "Winter Weather Basics" explains how winter storms are formed.

But the real excitement comes from studying local weather conditions and predicting snowstorms. Weather Watch offers methods to measure and record local weather and to compare personal observations and measurements with professional ground-based weather stations. Data from satellites is converted to various types of images. These images are used to observe weather systems hundreds of miles away, help scientists predict when a storm may occur and how severe the storm may be.

Man sitting in snow and writing on a notepad From Students:
Keep track of weather conditions daily and learn to detect patterns characteristic of snowstorms. Find out when the next snowstorm will occur!
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A weather station covered in snow From Weather Stations:
Professional ground-based weather stations, radar and weather balloons provide critical data about atmospheric conditions.
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Earth From Satellites:
NASA and weather satellites monitor atmospheric conditions from space.
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Some very important Earth science concepts are developed while students make basic weather measurements. Links to resources for teaching these concepts are found in the Related Resources list below.

One important concept is the reason for the seasons. Students learn about Earth's orbit around the sun and the tilt of Earth's axis relative to that orbit. Students record the time of sunrise and sunset, and plot the position of the sun at sunrise, noon and sunset. While students do these activities, you can have them study the different cultures that observed the sun in a similar fashion and constructed observatories for these observations. A starting place is NASA's Ancient Observatories -- Timeless Knowledge Web site.

Start basic weather measurements early in the fall -- well before snowstorms are expected. Teach about air masses, how to read weather maps and use radar and satellite data and images to detect weather systems. A study of topography and how it affects weather is useful during the students' early investigations.

NOAA's Storm Tracker Tool helps students use radar and satellite information to predict the path of storms.

If you are a GLOBE or S'Cool participant, you may use their protocols and provide data to GLOBE and S'Cool as well as the Winter's Story weather station.

Related Resources
National Snow and Ice Data Center Web Site  →
NOAA's Winter Weather Basics  →
S'Cool: Online Cloud Chart  →
S'Cool: Online Cloud-type Tutorial  →
NOAA's Storm Tracker Tool  →

Ancient Observatories Timeless Knowledge  →
A NASA Web site that provides images and descriptions of some of the observatories -- ancient and modern -- that monitor the sun.

Online Guides  →
Easy-to-use tutorials for 'Reading Weather Maps,' Meteorology' and 'Remote Sensing,' produced by WW2010 from the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.