Image of hurricane watch and warning flags.
Hurricane watch and warning flags indicate that dangerous conditions exist.
This online educational activity for grades 5-8 will allow students to investigate the causes of hurricanes and how they are named and categorized, then practice tracking one across the Atlantic Ocean.

Education Standards

National Science Education Standards

  • Physical Science
    • Motions and forces
  • Earth and Space Science
    • Structure of the Earth System
  • Science in Personal and Social Perspective
    • Natural hazard
National Geography Standards

  • The World in Spacial Terms
  • Environment and Society
National Educational Technology Standards

  • Basic Operations and Concepts
  • Technology Research Tools


A hurricane is one of the most destructive natural forces on Earth, often causing millions of dollars of damage and untold human suffering wherever one may hit. NASA scientists study these damaging storms to learn how to predict when and where one is likely to occur. Study each section to learn how hurricanes form, how they are named and categorized, and how to track one of these dangerous storms.

hurricane watch flag
Section 1

Read the following questions and then visit the NASA Web sites below to answer them. Record the answers on a piece of notebook paper.




1. Which three things are necessary for a hurricane to form:

a. warm water
b. humid air
c. converging winds
d. icebergs
e. polar winds

2. A tropical disturbance is formed when an organized area of thunderstorms holds itself together for at least ____ hours.

a. 12
b. 16
c. 24
d. 32
e. 48

3. A storm becomes a hurricane when the wind speeds reach ____ miles per hour.

a. 54
b. 64
c. 74
d. 84
e. 94

4. What year did each of the following hurricanes occur:

Hurricane Tomas _____________

Hurricane Andrew ____________

Hurricane Fran ______________

Hurricane Floyd _____________

Hurricane Pauline ____________

5. In which part of the world are storms called:

Typhoons _______________________________________________________

Hurricanes ______________________________________________________

hurricane watch flag
Section 2

Satellite image of hurricane Bonnie.
Hurricane Bonnie
Hurricane names are chosen from a list selected by the World Meteorological Organization. Hurricanes in the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean are named from different lists. Visit these Web sites and list on your paper the names that have been retired from the Atlantic list. Next, create your own list following the guidelines. Remember, do not use a name that has been retired or that is already on the list.



hurricane watch flag
Section 3

Hurricanes are rated on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale based on the intensity of the storm. Visit these Web sites and then complete the following table by copying the table and information on your paper. Print the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Chart template or draw your own.



hurricane watch flag
Section 4

Hurricane tracking map.
Hurricane Tracking Chart
This section requires that a Hurricane Tracking Chart be downloaded and printed from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Web site. The Chart can be found at the following Internet location:


Make sure that the latitude and longitude numbers are labeled on your map before you close the page on the computer. If they did not print clearly on your map write them in with a pen or pencil. The longitude numbers across the bottom of the page should read from right to left 45 through 105 degrees. The latitude numbers on the right side of the chart should read from bottom to top 10 through 45 degrees. Your teacher may need to assist you with this part. If part of the right side of the chart does not print, that's OK.

Option: A classroom map may be substituted for the Hurricane Tracking Chart.

Follow the measurements listed below to track Hurricane Mitch that traveled the Atlantic in 1998. Mark each position with a dot on your chart. Then connect the dots with straight lines to track the storm.

Place your first dot here: 75 West Longitude 12 North Latitude
Now continue with each location moving to the left on your map. Be alert-hurricanes can change directions without warning!

77 W 12 N
77 W 15 N
82 W 17 N
86 W 15 N
90 W 15 N
93 W 17 N
94 W 19 N
90 W 20 N
85 W 25 N
75 W 30 N
68 W 35 N
58 W 40 N
40 W 45 N

Did Hurricane Mitch run ashore in the United States? __________________________

If so, which state did it hit? _____________________________________________

Did it strike any other countries or islands? _________________________________

If so, which ones?_____________________________________________________

Now take a look at the real Mitch at this Web site:


Into which category did Hurricane Mitch fit?____

Extra Stuff

Drag & Drop Puzzle-Drag pieces one by one to make the picture of Hurricane Opal. http://kids.earth.nasa.gov/games/opal

What happens to the Space Shuttle if it is positioned on the launch pad and a hurricane warning is issued for NASA Kennedy Space Center? Find out from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Hurricane Plan.


Hurricane Hazards Fact Sheet from the Federal Emergency Management Agency: (FEMA) http://www.fema.gov/hazards/hurricanes/hurricaf.shtm

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) site for current weather information:

NASA satellites that monitor the weather:

NASA missions to study hurricanes

NASA Earth Science satellites that study Earth

More Earth Science missions that study Earth

Note to Educators - Additional NASA Educational Resources for this lesson:

NASA Earth Science Education Resources

Video Cassette from CORE: Educational Video
"The Case of the Phenomenal Weather"
[An alternative if you have printed this out is to go to http://core.nasa.gov and search for weather.]

NASA's Classroom of the Future presents "Exploring the Environment"