By Tyreek F. (7/21/17)
As my mother and I were leaving the lobby of our hotel, early this Friday morning, I heard thunder rumbling near us. I looked straight ahead at a large cumulonimbus cloud and assumed that it must have been the source of this thunder. Then I heard, just over my left shoulder, more loud thunder. I turned to my left and saw an even larger cloud with a very long shelf cloud stretching across the sky. At that point, I knew that this day was going to be another day filled with interesting weather, as everyday this week has been in Naples, Florida.
When I arrived in the hallway that leads to our classroom, I noticed five chairs sitting next to the window. The first thought that popped in my head was “cloud watching”, and I smiled. Shortly after arriving, we were brought to the window to watch the storm that I had witnessed earlier. This time we were able to also see some of what we had learned in action, and also learn about a new type of cloud (fracto-stratus) that sometimes forms under a rain curtain. This paved the way for our next activity of the day: looking at the properties of raindrops.
In this activity, we all were given a sheet of wax paper that was then sprayed with water from a spray bottle. All of the raindrops stayed in the shape of a hemisphere on the paper. We were then given pipettes and told to play with the water and see what things we noticed. After playing with the water for a few minutes, I started having more fun than most would have expected you could have with a few drops of water and wax paper. We later learned that water droplets like to stick together, they like to reflect and refract light, and when charged, they like to attract to each other depending on the charges of the droplets. This charged nature helps to cause lightning. This discussion perfectly transitioned into our next topic: how hail and rain form in the clouds.
Rain and hail formation was demonstrated to us by using a hair dryer (the “wind machine”) and a few ping-pong balls that represented raindrops. The “wind machine” was pointed upwards with air blowing out of it while a “raindrop” (ping pong ball) was placed on top; the ball floated in the air. This represents how updrafts keep raindrops suspended in the clouds. Hail forms when the raindrops go higher into the clouds where it is much colder and the raindrops freeze. These frozen drops then combine with super-cooled water to form larger hailstones until they are too heavy to be held by the updraft and fall down as hail. I found this to be very informative. I always knew about how the updraft keeps the hail in the air, but I was never quite sure how raindrops turned into hail and exactly what was being added to the hailstones to make them bigger.
After our lunch break, we were shown a presentation on climate change. This presentation showed us how carbon increases in the atmosphere almost directly correlates with increases in temperature and population. We were also taught what caused the hole in the ozone layer to form, and how people are trying to stop it from getting bigger. Of all the things we learned from the presentation, I think the most important thing I took away from it is not to believe what everyone says about climate change. People have made big claims about what will happen in the future due to climate change, but a lot of them have not happened. Although climate change is real, we cannot say that humans are the only reason for it. Humans only have data recorded from a couple hundred years of history. In comparison to all of geological time, that is a very, very small amount of time. So our averages are not representative of what Earth’s overall average temperatures are. I found this perspective on climate change very intriguing and convincing, and it made me change my own views on it.
Toward the end of the day, we did a few more things before wrapping up the five-day weather camp: tracking hurricanes, educating our families, instructors, and peers about our local weather and climate, and receiving gifts in celebration of completing the weather camp. Tracking the hurricanes gave me an insight into what it may have been like for the people who actually had to forecast Hurricane Elena. It was frustrating for me (but fun) to see how it kept zig-zagging around. I can only imagine what it would have been like in real life. After the hurricane tracking, all of our parents had arrived, and were sitting behind us eagerly waiting to hear our presentations about weather details in our localities. The presentations really showed how the climate and weather differ from cities that are in close proximity, like Tampa and Naples, or from a city in the Chicago Metro Area compared to Chicago itself. This was the last activity of our weather camp experience, and we received a certificate of completion, a weather radio, solar eclipse glasses, a hurricane tracking table mat, a bookmark, a weather magazine, and a business card for the Extreme Weather Experience: an immersive weather experience at a weather-themed amusement park. Universal Studios previously had the “Twister” attraction which was based off the movie. It had you standing in a scene from the movie. Then it would begin to rain, a fire would start, the wind would speed up and a tornado would begin to appear in the dark area. I thoroughly enjoyed this attraction, but sadly, it was shut down and replaced with the Jimmy Fallon Ride. This idea for an amusement park with a fully immersive weather experience would be even better than the “Twister” ride at Universal Studios, and I will be very excited to hear how it fares.
Overall, I found the weather camp to be a great experience. In the short amount of time we had (5 days), we learned a lot of new and helpful information. Last year I took an Earth Science class that covered different things that happen in our climate and then we discussed various occurrences with weather, but we never were told why these things happen. With this camp I got to better understand some of the things covered in that class, and I learned new things that I had never heard of before. I am glad I attended this camp. The more I learn about weather, the more I know this is the field I want to pursue, and the more I know that this will be my future.
© H. Michael Mogil and Matt Bolton, 2017
NOTE: As part of the camp experience, student summaries were critiqued by camp leaders and fellow campers. Then, edits and comments were shared in a group setting. This is part of the communication skill-building goals of the camp.