The Green Room

By Beckrich, Amanda | The Science Teacher, January 2016 | Go to article overview

The Green Room


Beckrich, Amanda, The Science Teacher


Hurricanes and Humans

In late October, Hurricane Patricia hit Mexico with top winds of 200 mph, setting records as the most powerful tropical cyclone ever measured in the Western Hemisphere. The New York Times provides interactive details (see "On the web").

Last summer marked the tenth anniversary of the Gulf's Hurricane Katrina. Experience the changes that have happened since in the New York Times's video-heavy article. Time magazine ran a retrospective of famous images, and other sources published interesting summaries (see "On the web").

Hurricanes can be exacerbated by other events. For example, the warm waters of the 2015 E1 Nino likely strengthened Hurricane Patricia. Can human activities also affect hurricanes? That's debatable. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says we can't conclude that global warming has already intensified hurricanes but that it is likely to do so this century (see "On the web").

Classroom activities

First, have students brush up on the basics--how hurricanes form, the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, typical impacts (United States Department of Commerce 2007). To focus on Hurricane Katrina, view The Storm, a documentary available online with lesson plans from PBS (see "On the web"). The New York Times Learning Network goes in-depth about hurricanes, offering slide shows of past hurricanes and allowing students to model coastal flooding (see "On the web").

NOAA offers multimedia resources, full lesson plans, and activities. Students can use maps, data, and aerial photos to assess the locations of hurricane impacts or use online resources to assess the specific risks of hurricanes to coastal communities (see "On the web").

Finally, PBS LearningMedia offers a few short video clips, interactives, and activities to highlight specific aspects of hurricanes. Show students the hurricane formation animation and then, in NOVA video clips, how water vapor from oceans can fuel hurricanes and how warmer oceans can yield more intense hurricanes. In another video excerpt, students can make the connection between El Nino and weaker hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean. …

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