Glencoe Earth Science

Unit 5: Earth's Air and Water




Suppose you live in a small coastal town in Texas. On the evening news, you hear about a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico that appears to be heading towards Texas. Although this disturbance is not yet classified as a tropical storm, your parents wonder if they should start to board up windows and bring in outdoor furniture to prepare for high winds and rain. When does a tropical depression become a tropical storm? When does a tropical storm become a hurricane? What is the definition of a hurricane? How does a hurricane form? What are the parts of a hurricane? When and where have the most destructive hurricanes hit? In this WebQuest you will explore the weather phenomena called hurricanes and find the answers to these and other questions.



Your job in this WebQuest is to discover the conditions that create tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes, and to identify the differences among these storms. You will learn about the component parts of hurricanes and about the source of energy for all tropical storms. You will find out about the scale used to classify hurricanes, and about the most destructive hurricanes ever recorded. You will also discover the relationships between tropical cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes. Finally, you will answer a set of questions to demonstrate what you have learned about hurricanes.



Look at the web sites given here to find the information that will enable you to answer questions about hurricanes.

  • How do hurricanes work?
    Visit this site by the Miami Museum of Science to learn how hurricanes form. You can find out about hurricanes by scrolling down and clicking on any of the buttons at the bottom of the page. For example, if you click on "make a hurricane spiral," you can go to an activity in which you will make a hurricane spiral and use it to create the spiral effect of a hurricane.
  • Hurricane Basics.
    Go to this National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) site to learn all about hurricanes, how they form, and how they are named. Scroll down to see a list of names assigned to Atlantic tropical storms through 2006.
  • Hurricanes.
    At this site by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) you can learn more about hurricanes. The index at the left of the screen lists the topics available at this site. Click on past major hurricanes to see a list of major hurricanes that have hit the U.S. since 1961.
  • How Hurricanes Work.
    Visit this site to learn how a hurricane forms, what its parts are, and how hurricanes are tracked. Click on parts of a hurricane, then scroll down and click on hurricane creation to see interactive graphics that show the formation of a hurricane.
  • Hurricanes: Nature’s Greatest Storms.
    At this NOAA site you can learn more about the role of this organization in tracking hurricanes. NOAA has two main hurricane tracking centers, one in Florida and one in Hawaii. Both work with satellite imagery to predict and track hurricanes. Scroll down and click on any region to see the latest satellite imagery of that region.
  • Hurricanes: Online Meteorology Guide.
    Visit this University of Illinois site to learn about hurricanes. You can read a definition of hurricanes here, and find out what the stages of development of a hurricane are. Scroll down and click on explore a 3-D hurricane to view a 3-dimensional computer model of a hurricane.
  • What paths do hurricanes take?
    Go to this Miami Museum of Science site to find out more about hurricane tracking. Click on the radar screen to open an activity in which you can track a hurricane yourself. Then scroll down and click on one of the hurricane buttons to find out where that hurricane traveled.
  • Overview of Atlantic Hurricanes.
    Visit this site to find out more about the costliest and deadliest hurricanes since 1900. The site includes information on formation of hurricanes, how they are named, and how to prepare for hurricanes.
  • Killer Storms of the Past.
    Go to this site by the Galveston Hurricane Center to see a list of the hurricanes and typhoons that have left death and destruction in their paths. The storms listed go back to the year 1900.



1 class period for research and answering the set of questions



Read through the following set of questions before you begin your Internet research. As you explore each site, look for answers to the questions.

Questions about Hurricanes!

  1. What is the relationship among hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones?

  2. What are the three weather conditions under which a tropical cyclone usually develops?

  3. What is the source of energy for all tropical cyclones?

  4. Describe the three stages of development of a tropical cyclone. Include the wind speed in your description.

  5. What are the three parts of a hurricane?

  6. A hurricane was described as a 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. What does this mean?

  7. What is the diameter of a typical hurricane? What is the diameter of the eye of a typical hurricane?

  8. When and where was the worst hurricane in the United States? How many people died in that hurricane?

  9. When and where was the worst hurricane in the world? How many people died in that hurricane?

  10. What will be the name of the first tropical storm in the Atlantic and Caribbean in the year 2003?



In the process of completing this WebQuest, you’ve become informed about the phenomena called hurricanes, the conditions required to generate hurricanes, and the scale used to classify hurricanes. You have identified the component parts of hurricanes, and discovered the relationships among tropical cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes. Your have developed research skills as you explored the web sites given and identified the relevant information to answer the set of questions above. Did you know how hurricanes were related to typhoons and tropical cyclones? Were you surprised to learn how many people have died as a result of hurricanes over the last 100 years?



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