Hurricanes Unit Overview

Student Pages » The lab activities in this module were created by John McDaris of SERC and LuAnn Dahlman of TERC for the EarthLabs project.

Why Teach about Hurricanes?

Hurricanes are life-threatening, building-flattening, property-flooding storms. They are complex natural phenomena that involve multiple interacting processes of the air, water, land, and life. Hurricanes provide intense, real-world examples for a number of physical science concepts. When a hurricane is occurring, the human connection to our planet is real and immediate: land, water, air, and life are all whirled about by these intense storms.

Like scientists, students will study hurricanes in satellite imagery and visualizations, and do some hands-on experiments. They'll also explore over 150 years of storm data to find out when and where these storms occur. If students are studying hurricanes during hurricane season, they can monitor the position and status of storms in real time. Hurricanes can serve as an exciting entry point into understanding everyday weather, or a culminating topic for an Earth system or environmental science unit.

Key Questions

Key Questions addressed by this unit include:
  • What is a hurricane? How do they form?
  • When and where do hurricanes occur? Has the frequency and intensity of hurricanes changed over time?
  • What factors influence the strength or intensity of hurricanes?
  • How do warm ocean waters fuel hurricanes?
  • What are the dangers to life and property in a hurricane?

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