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An Internet WebQuest

Hurricanes

Introduction

Suppose you live in a town near the coast of Texas. On the evening news, you hear about a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico that appears to be heading towards Texas. This disturbance is not yet classified as a tropical storm, which could turn into a hurricane. However, your parents start to worry about the wind and rains a storm could bring. They wonder aloud if they should board up windows and bring in outdoor furniture.

When does a tropical depression become a tropical storm? When does a tropical storm become a hurricane? How is technology used to detect and track storms for hurricane warnings? In this WebQuest, you will explore storms called hurricanes and find the answers to these and other questions. You will see how science and technology are used to solve problems related to weather.

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Task

Your job in this WebQuest is to discover the conditions that create hurricanes. You will also identify the differences among various types of storms. You will find out about the scale used to classify hurricanes and the tools used to detect, forecast, and track them. Finally, you will answer a set of questions to demonstrate what you have learned about hurricanes.

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Process

Read through the following questions. Then research the Internet sites that are listed after them. As you explore each site, look for answers to the questions. Keep a record of the sites where you find answers.

Questions about Hurricanes

    1. What is a tropical cyclone? How are cyclones, tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes related?

    2. Name three weather conditions under which a hurricane usually develops.

    3. Describe the three stages of development of a tropical cyclone. Include the wind speed in your description.

    4. Suppose you hear a hurricane described as a 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. What does this mean?

    5. What tools and methods are used to forecast and track hurricanes?

    6. Often the development of technology for one setting is applied to another. What was radar originally developed for?

    7. Describe the role satellites play in detecting hurricanes.

    8. Explain the mission of "hurricane hunters" and identify the types of data they might gather.

    9. What will be the names of the first Atlantic or Caribbean tropical storms for the next three years?

    10. Imagine that you live in an area that may have to be evacuated due to a hurricane. Write a safety plan for your family.

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Resources

Look at the web sites given here to find the information that will enable you to answer questions about hurricanes.

  • Hurricane Basics. Go to this National Hurricane Center site to learn all about tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes. Learn under what conditions hurricanes form, how the storms are named, and how to interpret hurricane intensity on a scale of 1 to 5. This site also provides safety tips.

  • Hurricanes: Online Meteorology Guide. Scroll down this site to learn about the development stages of hurricanes. You can also learn about forecasting and tracking techniques and how to prepare for hurricanes. This site is provided by the University of Illinois.

  • How Hurricanes Work. Visit this site to learn how a hurricane forms and how hurricanes are tracked by weather forecasters.

  • NOAA: Weather Predication and Detection. Go to this site to learn about the history of using radar for storm detection.

  • What paths do hurricanes take? Go to this Miami Museum of Science site to find out more about hurricane tracking. Click on the radar screen to open an activity in which you can track a hurricane yourself. Then scroll down and click on one of the hurricane buttons to find out where that hurricane traveled.

  • NOAA: Hurricanes. Go to this site to learn more about the scale for measuring hurricane intensity and the work that hurricane hunters do. This site is provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

  • FEMA for Kids: Hurricanes. You can learn more about hurricanes at this site by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Click on Hurricane Hunters to find out about the pilots who fly directly into the giant storms to gather information for weather forecasters.

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Conclusion

In the process of completing this WebQuest, you have developed research skills as you explored the Web sites given and identified the relevant information to answer the questions. You have identified conditions required to generate hurricanes and the scale use to classify them. You have learned about tools used to monitor them. With these tools, it is possible to provide accurate forecasting of hurricanes and ample warning of their approach to land. These are all examples of how science and technology can be used to solve problems and improve our lives.

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