Saturday, February 4, 2012

Snow Day!

Image courtesy of
We had a snow day this week. All day before the storm, students (and other teachers) would ask me about the storm and whether or not we'd have the next day off. As the resident weather geek, I was happy to oblige their questions and share the salient data. There are a plethora of weather tools available on the internet these days, but I always turn to a few favorites that are well-suited for scientists and educators alike.

The Weather Channel offers the cleanest, best-looking weather maps on the internet. I use these maps in the classroom to help students learn about weather symbols and patterns. Multiple maps are easy to save and stack inside an application like Apple Keynote or Microsoft PowerPoint to create a beautiful weather map slide show.

Weather Underground is the finest source of in-depth weather information for the weather enthusiast. One-stop-shopping for maps, local weather data and forecasts, radar images and animations, severe weather alerts, and more. I particularly like their email notification services, which always keep me informed of the latest weather watches and warnings. For the classroom, wunderground's radar animations (which can be downloaded and saved) are an excellent way to help students understand patterns associated with precipitation, atmospheric circulation, and severe weather.

For official information about weather watches and warnings, NOAA's National Weather Service is the place to be. Only the National Weather Service can issue official watches and warnings for severe weather events; it is therefore crucial to understand what these watches and warnings mean so that appropriate preparations can be made. Each local National Weather Service office also offers local storm reports, which catalog snowfall totals, wind speeds and wind damages, hail sizes, and other significant weather events.

To keep track of the clouds, NOAA's Aviation Weather Center offers some great satellite imagery tools. Their "loop-big" satellite animations are excellent for helping students better understand cloud motion, cloud formation, and atmospheric circulation. Additionally, the satellite imagery offers water vapor views that helps students think about the flow of invisible water vapor in Earth's atmosphere.

For the pure science geeks, access to the raw data is important. Again, NOAA's Aviation Weather Center is the place to go. It offers access to up-to-the-minute METAR data from weather stations all across the United States. METARs typically include the basic meteorological variables such as temperature, dew point, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, cloud cover, precipitation, etc. I use this resource in the classroom to help students understand how weather data is collected, recorded, and reported.

Tired of the current weather and wanting to know when the next big snowstorm is coming? Turn to Unisys Weather to view and analyze short-, medium-, and long-range information from computer weather models. I enjoy viewing the GFSx 500 mb height and SLP loop, which shows the progression of large-scale weather patterns and trends across the US in a colorful 10-day animation.

Finally, for your artistic enjoyment, check out beautiful photographs of snow crystals at — the site all about snow crystals and snowflakes. With its stunning images of snow crystals, The Secret Life of a Snowflake is a fine addition to the science classroom or library book shelf.

Now, get outside and enjoy the snow day!

1 comment:

  1. Hey, enjoyable reading, I am glad I have a son that keeps me informed, as this is way, way tooooo much information (TMI) for me. Thanks