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Harrowing Hurricanes! Learning about Longitude and Latitude - Vol.4 #2

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie


In the past few months, we have seen two devastating hurricanes. Harvey, which ransacked Texas and the latest Irma, that turned most of the Florida Keys into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Meteorologists use models that predict the tracks of these storms and can do so 3-5 days in advance. They are not always accurate, but scientists are working diligently to pinpoint a precise landfall! According to, in 2000 the average miss was 150 miles. Today, it is down to 75 miles.

The National Hurricane Center has been tracking storms since the 1950s, plotting the storm's latitude and longitude points. Although not perfect, the scientific models that Meteorologists use today help people better prepare for what potentially could be a catastrophic event. According to the Hurricane Science website, "A hurricane forecast model can be defined as any objective tool, usually based on mathematical equations, that is designed to predict the future behavior of a hurricane (or more generally, any tropical cyclone)."

Besides the models, Satellite imagery is also used to see how a storm is evolving or dissolving. They also check the water temperature that the storm will pass over. This can fuel the intensity of a storm or at the very least keep it sustained. Wind shear in the atmosphere is also monitored since it can break up the structure of a storm and lessen its intensity.

Here are the 6 most popular models according to Weather Underground:

ECMWF: The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting

GFS: The Global Forecast System

GFDL: The NWS/Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory

UKMET: The United Kingdom Met Office

HWRF: The NWS/Hurricane Weather Research Model. HWRF

NOGAPS: The U.S. Navy's Navy Operational Global Prediction Center System

Science and Technology are extremely important in keeping us all safe from potentially being devastated by one of these storms. Meteorologists are working tirelessly to improve measuring devices so that they may be able to give us more accurate information if one of these tropical cyclones is coming our way.


Let's Track a Storm!

Although it is easy to use one of the many electronic devices that we own today to anticipate the weather or to track a storm, it is equally important for our children to know how to place a point on a map. In this activity, your students can learn how to track a hurricane using a map and understanding Longitude and Latitude!

The Scholastic website has a great activity to teach your students how to track a storm on a map. Since it is still hurricane season you can do this as an entire class activity or gather information from past storms and have them do it in teams! Whichever you decide, it will be a great hands-on learning experience!


Math and Geography standards

  • Using Graphs

  • Plotting Points on a map

  • Scale factors

  • Learning latitude and longitude

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