Comparison of Two Hurricanes

This page is authored by David Kobilka, Central Lakes College. It incorporates video material from PBS NOVA programs.
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Initial Publication Date: April 8, 2014 | Reviewed: July 21, 2015


In this classroom activity, students incorporate learning form lecture, reading, video programs to reflect on the similarities and differences between hurricanes Katrina 2005 and Sandy 2013 in terms of how the storms developed and became dangerous, and how the disaster, mitigation, and response, differed in the two places and two events. Students submit a written reflection for grading.

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Learning Goals

Concepts and Content: Tropical cyclone development; categories of hurricane damage-wind,rain, storm surge; sea level rise, tides, disasters and population, how humans respond to disasters, how societies, disaster mitigation, disaster response, how the consequences of our actions can aggravate a disaster.

Higher-order thinking skills: In this activity students,
  • synthesize ideas from class discussion, video programs, and textbook reading to reflect and discuss hurricane disasters, disaster mitigation and response.
  • discuss comparisons, similarities, and differences between two hurricanes.

Other skills: In this activity students submit a written, typed manuscript of their responses and reflections to specific questions.

This activity is about how humans perceive risk, prepare for it, and respond to it. It is taught as part of a larger unit on atmospheric circulation and storms. It is also about how a lack of foresight sometimes can bring disastrous consequences.

Context for Use

This activity is for students in introductory classes of Oceanography, Natural Disasters, etc. The activity typically takes 1-2 classroom periods, depending on how much of each video program is viewed in class. To do will students should be used to discussing geoscience topics in small groups. By the time they get to this part students should have a basic understanding of tropical cyclones and how they form.

Description and Teaching Materials

This activity has 3 components:
  1. Lecture based introduction to tropical cyclones
  2. Viewing either in-class or independently of the following two programs:
  3. Written reflection

For each video viewing there is a written summary of observations from the video itself. For the final written portion, reflection is emphasized as a way to encourage students to think about comparisons and synthesize ideas from the class text, lecture, and the two videos. The associated files are the written summaries from the two video assignments.


Students are assessed in the evaluation of the written reflection.

References and Resources