Hot Water and Hurricanes


What is the ocean's role in powering hurricanes? Why do some storms experience rapid intensification, a rapid increase of wind speeds, as they move over warm waters? Why do the storms become weaker once they move onto land?

In this lab, you'll use Hurricane Katrina as a case study to explore where the power to fuel its winds and rains came from. You'll look at visualizations of sea surface temperature and sea surface height to understand how this energy is available to hurricanes.

After completing this investigation, you should be able to:

  • calculate the amount of heat energy absorbed by a given volume of water as its temperature changes;
  • interpret sea surface temperature images and animations to identify warm water ocean currents;
  • interpret image data that show various measures of heat in the Gulf of Mexico before and after Hurricane Katrina; and
  • access and interpret current Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential, Sea Surface Temperature, and Sea Height Anomaly images.

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.