MY NASA DATA Lesson:

Hurricanes: An Environment of Concern

hurricane word web

Image courtesy ESSEA

Purpose:
In this section you will be drawing connections between your previous understanding of hurricanes (Hurricane Research lesson), and scientific data for future hurricanes (Hurricane Frequency and Intensity Lesson). Specifically, you will discuss the interaction (pathway) between a specific ‘sphere’ and the ‘event’ (hurricane).

Remember that you are a senior science advisor for the Louisiana Environmental Agency. Due to the recent damaging and deadly hurricanes during 2005 (i.e., Hurricane Katrina) through 2008, you, along with your team of climatologists, meteorologists, and environmental impact experts, have been tasked to study the danger of future tropical storms. Specifically, you will investigate the potential for future deadly and damaging hurricanes to impact the Gulf Coast area. Your research could help to save thousands of lives and billions of dollars in property damage.

You will now create a summary of how the event ‘an Atlantic Ocean Hurricane’ affects your specific ‘sphere’, or the ‘environment of concern’ (EOC). For example, if your group is assigned the Biosphere environment, then your job is to determine all possible pathways that a hurricane could impact all living matter. The Biosphere could include plants, trees, and wetland areas etc.
Good Luck

Grade Level: 9-12
Estimated Time for Completing Activity: Two 45-50 minute class periods.
Learning Outcomes:
  • Research factors that influence hurricane development
  • Learn about seasonal hurricane variation
  • Learn how different ‘spheres’ can influence a hurricane
  • Discover how hurricanes can impact the Earth and
    society
National Standards:
  • Geography: Places and Regions
  • Math: Representation
  • Math: Data Analysis and Probability
  • Science Content: D Earth and Space Science
  • Science Content: F Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
Virginia Standards of Learning:
  • ES.1c: The student will plan and conduct investigations in which scales, diagrams, maps, charts, graphs, tables, and profiles are constructed and interpreted.
  • ES.2a: The student will demonstrate scientific reasoning and logic by analyzing how science explains and predicts the interactions and dynamics of complex Earth systems.
  • ES.11c: The student will investigate and understand that oceans are complex, interactive physical, chemical, and biological systems and are subject to long- and short-term variations. Key concepts include systems interactions (density differences, energy transfer, weather, and climate).
  • ES.13c: The student will investigate and understand that energy transfer between the sun and the Earth and its atmosphere drives weather and climate on Earth. Key concepts include severe weather occurrences, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and major storms.
  • Sci6.3: The student will investigate and understand the role of solar energy in driving most natural processes within the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and on the Earth’s surface.
  • Sci6.5: The student will investigate and understand the unique properties and characteristics of water and its roles in the natural and human-made environment.
Vocabulary:
Lesson Links:
Background:

Hurricanes are referred to by different labels, depending on where they occur. They are called hurricanes when they happen over the North Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, or the Northeast Pacific Ocean. Such storms are known as typhoons if they occur in the Northwest Pacific Ocean, west of an imaginary line called the International Date Line. Near Australia and in the Indian Ocean, they are referred to as tropical cyclones.

Hurricanes are most common during the summer and early fall. In the Atlantic and the Northeast Pacific, for example, August and September are the peak hurricane months. Typhoons occur throughout the year in the Northwest Pacific but are most frequent in summer. In the North Indian Ocean, tropical cyclones strike in May and November. In the South Indian Ocean, the South Pacific Ocean, and off the coast of Australia, the hurricane season runs from December to March. Approximately 85 hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones occur in a year throughout the world

Hurricanes in the Northern Hemisphere usually begin by traveling from east to west. As the storms approach the coast of North America or Asia, however, they shift to a more northerly direction. All hurricanes eventually move toward higher latitudes where there is colder air, less moisture, and greater wind shears. These conditions cause the storm to weaken and die out. The end comes quickly if a hurricane moves over land, because it no longer receives heat energy and moisture from warm tropical water. Heavy rains may continue, however, even after the winds have diminished.

In this lesson the term ‘sphere’ will be used. This refers to the atmosphere, biosphere, land surface and the ocean that will be assigned to individual groups. Keep in mind that you will be looking at how your ‘sphere’ will influence a hurricane and other spheres, as well as how a hurricane might impact the spheres themselves.

Procedure:

In this lesson, groups will be assigned a specific sphere to look at more closely in relation to hurricanes. When all groups are finished, each will present their findings to the class for comparison and a closer look. If your group is assigned the Hydrosphere you will be looking at the oceans in the Live Access Server (LAS), if your group is assigned the Lithosphere your group will be looking at the Land Surface in the LAS, if your group is assigned the Biosphere you will be looking at the Biosphere in the LAS and the group that is assigned the Atmosphere you will be looking at the Atmosphere in the LAS.

Make sure that all of the groups choose the same hurricane, time period and approximate location before beginning the lesson.

Each group will be plotting a color plot that is centered around the equatorial Atlantic. Be sure to use these plots to draw conclusions as to how your dataset could impact a hurricane. Remember that an impact can be positive or negative. A good starting point for determining which hurricane to look at would be a hurricane that occurred in the 2005 hurricane season.

1. Go to the Live Access Server Advanced Edition found in the Lesson Links section.

2. Depending on which sphere you are assigned click on

3. Atmospheric Radiation, then Surface, then Monthly Surface All Sky SW Downward flux. Be sure to click on the radio button next to ‘Update Plot’ found in the menu at the top of the page. Next, change the latitude and longitude location to 50N through 5S and 110W through 5W respectively then. Select your particular time.

4. Biosphere, then Monthly Leaf Area Index (MISR), Change the region to North America (this can be be found by clicking on the double downward arrow found in the upper left hand corner of the page above the navigation map), change the date to the appropriate time frame. Be sure to click on the radio button next to ‘Update Plot’ found in the menu at the top of the page. With this sphere you will be drawing connections between leaf area index and the factors that are present to arrive at the values see on the color plot.

5. Land Surface, then Surface Conditions and then Monthly Surface Pressure. Make sure to change the region to North America (this can be be found by clicking on the double downward arrow found in the upper left hand corner of the page above the navigation map) and change the date to the time period being studied. Be sure to click on the radio button next to ‘Update Plot’ found in the menu at the top of the page.

6. Oceans, then click on Weekly Sea Surface Temperature. Next, change the latitude and longitude location to 50N through 5S and 110W through 5W respectively then click go. Select your particular time. Lastly, B sure to click on the radio button next to ‘Update Plot’ found in the menu at the top of the page.

7. Use the data that you have found in the Live Access server along with the other information that you have collected to determine all possible pathways that a hurricane could impact all living matter. Refer to the purpose section of the lesson for more information.

Questions:

1. List some ways in which different spheres interact with each other.

2. What effect would there be if one of the spheres were missing from the Earth? For this question, choose a single sphere to be removed and list one or two things that might be a result of the removal of that sphere on a global and local scale.

3. With your specific sphere, is there any human influence that could change things?

4. What was a specific item that you learned from this lesson?

5. What steps could be taken to mitigate the potential impact on the sphere that you were studying?

6. What specific conclusions were you able to draw when looking at your Live Access Server Plot?

7. With regard to hurricanes, what direct impact is there on your sphere?

8. Based on the sphere you were assigned, does the sphere influence the hurricane or the hurricane influence the sphere to a greater degree?

7. After Looking at your plot, were there any other questions that came up as a result of your data analysis? Were you able to answer those questions by looking at other groups plots?

The specific choices in the procedures section for the four spheres are suggestions. It is advisable to look around on your own for a parameter that will help you explain your sphere.

What to hand in:
Your report will address the following two main topics: (a) what impacts a hurricane would have on your environment of concern , and (b) what steps, if any, could be taken to mitigate this potential impact.

Note:
You should be sure to include citations and explanations for your conclusions. Additionally, you should explain the basic background behind your scientific relationships. For example, if you explain the effects of storm surge on wetland coastal areas, then you should describe the basic science of how storm surges form, as well as, what are wetland coastal areas.

A) Writing a 2-3 page (not counting graphs, pictures, or any non-text visual) summary paper
B) Creating an interactive presentation (i.e., Google Earth Tour)
c) A visual presentation (poster, powerpoint, etc.)

Extensions:

Lesson plan contributed by Zach Miller and ESSEA members

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