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Hurricane Winds Experiment #441
Grade Level(s): 1-2, 3-5, 6-8
By: Robert Krampf

Living in Florida, this is the time of year that I spend a lot of time watching the news coverage of hurricanes. My work on the new storm show is really paying off, because I am already seeing things about hurricanes that I never saw before. That is where this week's experiment comes in. It is very simple, but surprises almost everyone.


To try it, you will need:

a television or computer


Find one of the radar animations that show the movement of the hurricane. One good site for that is weather.com, but there are lots of places to watch the hurricanes this time of year. You want an animated map, so you can watch the clouds and rain.

That is exactly what I want you to do. Once the animation is going, watch it carefully. Pick a patch of rain and watch it as it moves. Do you notice something?

The rain, clouds and wind are all moving towards the center of the hurricane. Most people think that the wind blows out from the hurricane, but if you look, you will see that it is actually blowing inwards. If you think about it, it makes sense. The center of the hurricane is a huge, low pressure area. The higher pressure air around it is pushed inwards, where it rises. That rising maintains the low pressure.

But wait a minute! When you see all the news clips, the wind does not seem to be blowing towards the eye of the hurricane. That is because it is not. The winds spiral inwards, turning in a counter clockwise direction (in the Northern Hemisphere.) The direction the wind blows will depend on which side of the hurricane you are on. Whichever side you are on, if you face directly into the wind, the eye of the hurricane will be to your right. Before they had radar that was how they tracked hurricanes. Two or three ships could use the wind direction to plot the location of the eye.

My thoughts are with all those who were or are in the path for Katrina. Take care and stay safe. Also remember, if the power goes out, eat the ice cream first!

From Robert Krampf's Science Education Company

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