In 2017, the United States saw three devastating hurricanes rock the shores of states along the Gulf Coast and territories in the Caribbean. Hurricane season isn’t the country’s only severe weather occurrence. From tornados to blizzards, every season comes with its own forceful storm systems.
For some people, tracking these storms can be an electrifying hobby. From watching weather patterns develop hundreds of miles in the ocean to predicting how these patterns could impact weather closer to home, this hobby is often much more than a pastime. Even the National Weather Service relies on the eyes, ears, and expertise of amateur storm spotters to help them identify, track and, most importantly, warn communities about potential severe weather.
The best part is that as long as there is an interest, weather spotters can be trained at any age.
Becoming weather spotters is a great hobby to take on as a family. If you have a child or a teen who enjoys science, biology or just simply looking up at the sky, you may have a future storm spotter on your hands. This guide includes a few ways that inspiring and teaching your kids to become weather spotters can:
- Advance their education
- Build character
- Develop an appreciation for the natural world
- Explore technology
Learn math and science
Did you know the US lags significantly in academic performance for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) behind the majority of the Western world? If your child has an interest in STEM, getting them started early will not only boost their academic performance, but can also put them on a path to a meaningful career that can help reverse some of these statistics. Studies show that the sooner you engage children in STEM activities, the more likely they will have a stronger interest and academic performance in those areas, even if they aren’t interested in being a rocket scientist when they grow up.
How exactly does becoming a storm spotter help children strengthen STEM skills? Your kids can practice math skills by:
- Calculating temperature variations to predict patterns that could result in storms.
- Figuring wind speeds to determine if the weather is ripe for tornadoes.
- Using math to understand how temperature, air pressure, moisture, wind speed and water levels combine to create snow storms and blizzards.
- Learning how Earth’s rotation impacts weather patterns by using mathematical equations.
Likewise, your child can learn all kinds of interesting facts and processes by exploring how science impacts weather. Creating a science station in an extra room or a garage can allow you to conduct weather experiments like:
- Creating a tornado in a jar
- Making a homemade thermometer
- Building a rain gauge and/or wind vane
- Creating a blizzard in a bag
Creating a storm spotting space in your home will allow your children to explore these STEM activities, while also keeping their equipment, technology and tracking efforts organized. You can transform an unused closet, a corner in a garage or a wall in an extra room to give them a place to put on their amateur meteorologist hats. Some ideas include:
- A desk with a computer and space for weather-tracking instruments
- A bulletin board or whiteboard to keep track of current patterns
- An area with a sink for conducting experiments
- Inspiring quotes and pictures from science and weather role models
You can even help your kids practice reading and writing by keeping a weather journal. They’ll be able to log data and journal their thoughts to help them create connections and make predictions.
Pride in civic duty
Storm spotters can help people in their area prepare for inclement weather by tracking storms and keeping them updated on their strength, direction and level of damage. This information can help people prepare for blizzards, tornadoes, hurricanes and severe thunderstorms.
Teaching your children at a young age the importance of watching out for and helping others instills in them a powerful sense of empathy. In addition, both the National Weather Service and local news stations rely on amateur weather watchers to help collect data. They will often hold free training sessions to teach people of all ages how to scan the horizon for weather conditions that might lead to storms. Knowing that you and your child are making an impact in your community teaches an important level of responsibility.
Develop respect for nature
Even with all of our modern day math and science technology, weather is still unpredictable and will surprise you — more often than not. Deepening a child’s interest in storm spotting will also help them gain a respect for nature’s beauty and power. Children have a natural sense of wonder and awe for nature, as seen on their faces during their first snowfall or in their eyes when they hike their first mountain.
Children today have less time and opportunity to participate in nature. Even though you’ll sometimes use technology, storm spotting can get them away from their tablets and into the natural world. This means that a storm spotting hobby can also benefit your child’s mental health and development. Studies show that children who have access to nature have longer attention spans, are able to delay gratification, and are better able to cope with stress.
Letting your child collect specimens from nature and display them in your home weather center is a great way to reinforce both learning and appreciation. Looking at leaves that fell during a storm can teach your child respect for the circle of life, which applies to plants and animals. Observing how animals behave during a storm can help your child appreciate how fragile and delicate life can be.
Engage with technology
Technology plays a huge role in our lives — from education to recreation. Specific equipment is used in storm spotting, and this will not only teach your children how to navigate technology, but also about the appropriate uses for it. These kinds of instruments range from simple to complex, but they all serve a meaningful purpose. Some common types of equipment used in weather spotting include:
- Hygrometer: measures humidity
- Rain/snow gauge: measures the amount of rain/snow that has fallen
- Thermometer: measures temperature
- Barometer: measures air pressure
- Anemometer: measures wind speed
- Weather vane: shows which way the wind is blowing
In addition to these specialized instruments, you can also track weather patterns and storms with technology like:
- Smartphones: With apps like Radar Express and Storm Eye, you can track the progress of a specific weather pattern and its developments.
- Wireless weather stations: These are digital weather measurement devices that you can install at home or in the car. Some models even transmit data to your phone or computer.
- PC Programs: Global Weather 3D is a program that allows you to mark the location and density of clouds based on satellite imagery.
- Analysis: PC programs can also provide digital tools for analyzing weather data.
Setting up a designated space in your home for storm spotting can help your child collect, analyze and interpret weather data that can provide them with the resources to learn more about math and science and how nature impacts our communities. Doing so also gives you the opportunity to support an interesting, enlightening hobby for your child, and you can instill in them a greater sense of purpose in their communities and the world.