Why Keep an Eye on the Barometer?


Checking the barometer
A NOAA Corps officer checks the barometer. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

During hurricane season, weather reports about tropical storms and hurricanes usually include the storm's maximum wind speed as well as its air pressure reading. It's easy to understand why people are interested in wind speedsafter all, higher wind speeds do more damage to property than lower wind speeds. Why are people interested in the air pressure though? How do air pressure readings from a barometer help describe and predict hurricane behavior?

In this lab, you'll investigate the relationship between air pressure and wind speed. You'll use a spreadsheet application to compare pressure and wind speed from 2005's devastating Hurricane Katrina. You'll make a similar plot for the entire 2005 hurricane season. Interpreting these graphs will help you determine why air pressure measurements are so important for understanding hurricanes.

Keeping Track of What You Learn

Throughout these labs, you will find two kinds of questions.
  • Checking In questions are intended to keep you engaged and focused on key concepts and to allow you to periodically check if the material is making sense. These questions are often accompanied by hints or answers to let you know if you are on the right track.
  • Stop and Think questions are intended to help your teacher assess your understanding of the key concepts and skills you should be learning from the lab activities and readings.
Your teacher will let you know which answers you should record and turn in.