Lab 3: Putting Hurricanes on the Calendar

The lab activity described here was created by LuAnn Dahlman and Sarah Hill of TERC for the EarthLabs project.

Summary and Learning Objectives

Students explore NOAA's official record of tropical storms and hurricanes, then work with the primary data and data products to identify the dates and aspects of the Atlantic hurricane season.

After completing this investigation, students will be able to:

  • Visually explore the HURDAT2 database of tropical storms and hurricanes.
  • Explore and analyze visual representations of HURDAT2 data.
  • Identify the months when tropical storms and hurricanes occur.

Open the Student Lab »

Context for Use

This activity continues building student familiarity with hurricanes by having them work with the data visualizations of and the HURDAT2 database, NOAA's official record of tropical storms and hurricanes, itself. It requires a computer with Internet access for every one or two students. Alternatively, the lesson could be completed as a participative demonstration if the instructor has access to a computer projector.

Activity Overview and Teaching Materials

Students visually explore NOAA's HURDAT2 database to become familiar with the data format. They then visit several sites with data visualizations based on HURDAT2. Older students should be able to do the Optional Extension in part C, which looks at a real-life scientific drama over the accuracy of HURDAT.

You may want to provide a hard copy of the activity sheet (Acrobat (PDF) PRIVATE FILE 43kB Jun21 22) on which students can record their answers. A word processing version (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) PRIVATE FILE 22kB Jun21 22) of the activity sheet is also available should you wish to modify or add any questions. Finally, a

is available for grading student work.

Printable Materials

  • Activity Sheet (PDF (Acrobat (PDF) PRIVATE FILE 43kB Jun21 22) and Word (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) PRIVATE FILE 22kB Jun21 22))

Teaching Notes and Tips

The added "2" indicates the second generation and updated format of HURDAT data - Click here for more info about HURDAT2 and reading the data.


Collect the activity sheets and grade on effort and accuracy. You may also want to ask older students to write a brief response after completing the Optional Extension for part C, including citations of more current articles and updates from the scientists.

State and National Science Teaching Standards

Additional Resources

Background Information

NOAA maintains a comprehensive set of resources and links on historical hurricanes.

National Hurricane Data Archive

Pedagogic Considerations

As many sources of information are based on HURDAT data, this activity has students work with the primary data and data products to draw their own conclusions.