Hurricanes as Heat Engines - Lesson Plan
Using the various visualizations (i.e., images, charts, and graphs) from 2016 Hurricane Matthew, students explore the energy exchange that occurs when hurricanes extract heat energy from the ocean.
(Can be displayed or distributed to student groups as hard copies)
- Path of Hurricane Matthew September 28 – October 9, 2016 (See file in Student Datasheets)
- Progression of Matthew, https://coast.noaa.gov/hurricanes/
- Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutsshws.php
- My NASA Data, https://mynasadata.larc.nasa.gov/
- CYGNSS Mission, https://www.nasa.gov/cygnss
“Hurricanes as Heat Engines” Student Datasheet
- Numerous sticky notes in four different colors
- Internet Access
- Data Visualization Pages: Daily Sea Surface Temperature for Oct. 4th, Oct. 8th, 12th
- Line Graph of Data: Sea Surface Temperature Graph for Oct. 1-16, 2016
Teachers who are interested in receiving the answer key, please contact MND from your school email address at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Setting the Stage:
Display “Path of Hurricane Matthew September 28 – October 9, 2016 Map” to students.
Display the “Progression of Matthew” table to the students.
Draw a timeline to include each day on the board, starting with Sept. 28, 2016, and ending with Oct. 9th on the board taking up at least two meters or more. Label as Hurricane Matthew.
Break students into seven groups and distribute sticky notes using a different color for each category and markers.
Divide the categories by each team: TS, H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, ET
In teams, have students research their category identifying how many of these dates correspond with their category. They should research the effects of their category and write these effects on the correct color of sticky note. (Note, this step may need to be duplicated based on how many dates this category was experienced (e.g., Hurricane Matthew was a H1 on 9/29/2016, as well as on 10/8/2016 so these sticky notes will need to be made for each day.) Once completed, have students place their sticky notes on the date/s where these effects happened and present their findings.
Review the following questions with students:
How many days did it take Tropical Storm Matthew to become a category 5 hurricane?
How many days did it take Hurricane Matthew to no longer be classified as a hurricane?
Where does the energy come from that causes a tropical storm to become a category 5 hurricane?
Looking at the Data
Distribute the Daily Sea Surface Temperature for Oct. 4th with students.
Repeat with Oct. 8th and 12th.
Next show the location selected as a point of interest.
Display the Daily Sea Surface Temperature for Hurricane Matthew for Oct. 1-16, 2016
Distribute “Hurricanes as Heat Engines” Datasheet and review the instructions.
Analyze the Data
- Examine the three data sets of Daily Sea Surface Temperature (SST) for October 4, 2016, October 8, 2016, and October 12, 2016 and describe your observations and inferences in the question below.
- What evidence of lowered sea surface temperature (SST) do you observe in the map visualizations?
- Examine the line graph of SST for the selected location and answer the questions below:
What effect do you observe regarding the temperature in the line plot after the hurricane passed?
How long did it take for the SST to return to the previous temperature?
What conclusion can you make about the relationship of hurricanes and the ocean?
What other spheres besides the Atmosphere and Hydrosphere are affected?
Using the same procedure, students will examine the SST data during and after Hurricane Harvey 2017 or any of the historical hurricanes from an area near where you live. (Note: Data is not available for the week after Hurricane Katrina because the hurricane interrupted data processing at the Naval Oceanographic Office at Stennis Space Center, Mississippi.)
Review the instructions for Part B.
Supported NGSS Performance Expectations
- 4-ESS2-2: Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features.
- 5-ESS2-1: Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.
- MS-ESS2-4: Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth's systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.
- MS-ESS2-2: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales.
- MS-PS3-5: Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object.
- MS-PS1-4: Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of a pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed.
- HS-PS3-4: Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that the transfer of thermal energy when two components of different temperature are combined within a closed system results in a more uniform energy distribution among the components in the
Students will analyze NASA sea surface temperature data to use as evidence to explain a phenomenon.
Students will explore how hurricanes gain energy from the ocean surface.
- How is sea surface temperature affected by the development of a hurricane?
- How is thermal energy transferred within a hurricane system?
- How does a hurricane affect the different spheres within the Earth system?
The passage of a hurricane causes a large transfer of heat between the ocean surface and the atmosphere. It also causes surface waters to diverge, bringing cooler water from below to the surface (upwelling). These effects are so large that they can be seen by a drop in sea surface temperature (SST) in satellite data observations along the path of the storm. The cooler water conditions may last for a week or longer after the storm.
- Introduction to weather or hurricanes
- Familiarity with finding coordinates on a map
- Basic concepts of energy transfer
National Geography Standards
- How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective.
Hurricanes are the most violent storms on Earth. They are like giant engines that use warm, moist air as fuel, which is why they form only over warm ocean waters near the equator. The warm, moist air over the ocean rises upward and as the air continues to rise the surrounding air swirls in to take its place. As the warm, moist air rises and cools off clouds form creating a system of clouds and wind that spins and grows, fed by the ocean’s heat and water evaporating from the surface. NASA satellites gather sea surface temperature data that can be used to explore changes that occur.
- Atmospheric and Space Scientists – Investigate weather and climate-related phenomena to prepare weather and climate-related phenomena to prepare weather reports and forecasts for the public
- Computer and Information Scientists – Conduct research in the field of computer and information science
- Applications Software Developers – Develop and modify computer applications software that are used to communicate with satellites and people using satellite data
- Computer Programmers
- Systems Engineers
- Software Engineers