Enrichment Activity 4: Storm Forecasting

Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE) Weather Scope
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.




Storm Forecasting is a 2-part lesson which is last in a series of 14 lessons on weather and climate. In the first part of the lesson, students track a tropical storm as it develops in the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean using real-time data from the Internet. The hurricane season runs June 1-November 30, so this activity must be scheduled during this time. This activity should take 5-10 minutes per day. Students will look for connections between storm severity, air pressure and wind speed. In the second part of the lesson, students record the path of high and low pressure systems in their region as they are forming and make predictions regarding future weather patterns. Students make connections between air pressure, temperature, humidity (precipitation), the role of the Jet Stream and weather patterns across the US using data from the National Hurricane Center.

Please note that some of the links are outdated so teachers should prepare for the lesson by determining which links are the most useful.


Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 6
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 8
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-ESS3-2 Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how some natural hazards, such as volcanic eruptions and severe weather, are preceded by phenomena that allow for reliable predictions, but others, such as earthquakes, occur suddenly and with no notice, and thus are not yet predictable. Examples of natural hazards can be taken from interior processes (such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions), surface processes (such as mass wasting and tsunamis), or severe weather events (such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods). Examples of data can include the locations, magnitudes, and frequencies of the natural hazards. Examples of technologies can be global (such as satellite systems to monitor hurricanes or forest fires) or local (such as building basements in tornado-prone regions or reservoirs to mitigate droughts).

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
In part 1 of the lesson, students gather data on tropical storms to track and forecast tropical storms. The authors suggest using the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, but the website is no longer active as the last data is from 2011. To find historical data, scroll down to Archives and select “Tropical Cyclone Reports.” The National Hurricane Center provides a link to current tropical storms, which is the focus of the lesson. Clicking on each tropical disturbance provides information on winds, barometric pressure, location and movement of the storm. The lesson provides an active link to satellite images which students use to gather and interpret the data to forecast the path and intensity of storms. Every day students review their storm predictions and apply what they’ve learned in making another forecast. Satellite imagery and data from other types of technology provide the information for the students, but the lesson doesn’t directly address the mitigation of the effects of natural hazards. To include the part of the Performance Expectation addressing “inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects,” the students should investigate the purposes of agencies such as the National Hurricane Center, the US Geological Survey, and the US Army Corps of Engineers and their efforts to predict natural disasters and assist populations in lessening impact of storms and other events. In “Part 2” of the lesson, students make connections between air pressures, temperature and humidity/precipitation to analyze weather conditions caused by high and low pressure systems using the WW2010 website at the University of Illinois. They plot the past history and make predictions for future paths of weather systems in their region. Each day they review their prediction and apply what they’ve learned in future forecasting. To address all types of natural hazards, the teacher would need to include lessons on both predictable and unpredictable events and the technologies developed to monitor events. Suggested resources for other natural hazards include: volcanoes (http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/), earthquakes (http://earthquake.usgs.gov/), mass wasting (https://www.nature.nps.gov/geology/hazards/mass_wasting.cfm) and tsunamis (http://nctr.pmel.noaa.gov/database_devel.html)

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students gather data on air pressure (sea level pressure on the WW2010 site), wind speed (surface observations), temperature, and humidity/precipitation (dew point) of tropical storms and local weather systems. They analyze the information to describe current conditions and forecast future development and cessation of weather patterns. Links to suggested websites are provided. If the students need more information, the teacher could direct them to additional resources such as http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/climo/ to learn more about hurricane formation. The Storm Prediction Center at http://www.spc.noaa.gov/products/ shows thunderstorm and tornado watches. The National Weather Service at http://weather.gov shows location of pressure systems on previous days and forecasts weather patterns for future days.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students map natural hazards in tropical oceans and in their own area and relate storm severity and location to barometric pressure, wind speed, temperature, and humidity/precipitation data gathered from the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service. Barometric pressure and wind speed are directly related to pressure gradient force. As the students track the storms for several days, they forecast the locations and severity of the phenomena. A suggested resource, the National Hurricane Center, has a link to historical hurricanes with a map of their paths and data on storm surges, wind speeds, etc. that students can access to learn about historical patterns of storms. To fully address the Disciplinary Core Idea, the teacher would need to include lessons on earthquakes(IRIS Earthquake Browser http://ds.iris.edu/ and volcanoes - (http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/).

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students investigate the interactions between barometric pressure, wind speed, temperature, humidity/precipitation and storm severity. As they repeat this process over several days, they should see the cause and effect relationships between the components and the resulting weather system. While the lesson doesn’t specify that they forecast weather conditions with probability, when they compare their forecasts to that of the Weather Channel they will see how probability is used to describe phenomena such as precipitation.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The lesson contains grade-appropriate applications of the Science and Engineering Practice of analyzing and interpreting the data of factors considered useful in predicting weather patterns. It includes the Disciplinary Core Idea of mapping hazards over several days and forecasting the likelihood of future events. The Crosscutting Concept of cause and effect relationships in weather systems works together with the other dimensions to support students in making sense of weather phenomena. The two parts of the lesson fit together coherently, with the first part investigating tropical storms and part two focusing on regional weather phenomena.

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson supports learning for all students as they are engaged in an authentic learning task that reflects science as experienced by meteorologists in the real world. It provides students with a purpose - making sense of weather phenomena in their region – that applies to their own experiences and connects to their own community. Students express, clarify, justify, interpret, and represent their ideas using scientifically accurate and grade-appropriate scientific information, phenomena, and representations when they write a storm forecast that could be read to the class. They compare their forecasts to predictions made at the Weather Channel or other on news sources. The lesson doesn’t provide guidance for teachers to support differentiated instruction in the classroom nor are learning style alternatives provided. The teacher may need to provide translations, graphic organizers, and extra support to assist students struggling to meet performance expectations. Extensions for students with high interest or for those who have already met the performance expectations could include researching other weather events such as historic hurricanes, blizzards, and floods or studying other factors impacting storm severity such as geographic location, impacts of high tides, and so on.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The students maintain daily logs of weather conditions (temperatures, air pressure, etc.), note changes, and write forecasts based on their observations throughout the lesson. They are asked to explain their reasoning behind weather predictions and to review the prediction after the weather has occurred. Formative assessments of three-dimensional learning can be conducted when students compare their forecasts to sources such as the Weather Channel. The teacher would need to develop questions about their conclusions and design a rubric for the weather log and explanations for forecasts. Questions and instructions are provided to guide student learning, but due to the nature of daily forecasting answers aren’t provided. The questions can be used as an assessment of student learning if the teacher asks students to write out their answers. These answers can be used to plan further instruction and to assess student proficiency.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: Technology resources are used throughout the lesson as students access and record weather data, but they are not of an interactive nature.