Search Results

Results for "thunderstorm"
thunderstorms

Most kids love watching heavy rain. Sometimes there is lightning accompanying the heavy rain. They inquire what the thunderstorm is and how it forms. It is all related to the water cycle and the weather conditions.

There are signs to predict a thunderstorm. One of these signs is the dark appearance of the sky. Thunderstorms have some features too. One of these features is lightning. They occur almost everywhere around the world. 

Thunderstorms do not last for a long time. However, they are dangerous. People have to prepare if a thunderstorm is predicted especially in the regions where thunderstorms are violent. There are various ways to stay safe during a thunderstorm.

What is a Thunderstorm?

A thunderstorm is a storm that involves thunder and lightning. It is sometimes called an electric storm. It usually occurs between May and September in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, it occurs between November and March. 

A thunderstorm occurs in almost every zone of the world. It’s made by a cumulonimbus cloud. It usually causes gusty winds, heavy rain and sometimes hail. It is considered ‘severe’ when it contains ¾- 1-inch hail, winds of 58 mph or higher, or even a tornado.

How Do Thunderstorms Form?

Moisture, unstable air and lift are the components of any thunderstorm. Cumulonimbus clouds are formed due to the moisture in the air. These clouds are heavy, dark, and full of rain. 

Warm, humid, unstable air quickly rises, making the clouds develop bigger and higher. The unstable air is left and rises even higher. If the three components are mixed, then there is a thunderstorm.

The Three Stages of a Thunderstorm

The life cycle of a thunderstorm occurs in three stages. The three stages are as follows: the cumulus stage, the mature cumulus stage, and the dissipating stage. Each stage has its features. Let’s check the characteristics of each one.

The cumulus stage

During the day, the sun makes the surface of the Earth warm. As a result, heated air rises upward which is called updraft. The more the sun heats the Earth’s surface, the warmer the air becomes. Since hot air is lighter than cool air, it rises.

In the existence of wet air, heated air condenses, causing a cumulus cloud to form. The non-stopping expansion of clouds will be supported as long as warm air beneath the clouds continues to rise.

Mature stage

This is a serious stage. As the cumulus cloud grows in size, its water becomes more visible and heavier. The rising air becomes too strong, and raindrops starts to fall through the cloud. 

As the rain starts to fall through into the clouds, cool, dry air starts to creep the cloud. This is called the downdraft phenomenon. The phenomenon develops if warm air is lighter than cool air, resulting in the cool air falling into the cloud. 

The downdraft pulls heavy water downwards, causing rain. This atmosphere produces a cumulonimbus cloud because of the updraft, downdraft, and rain. The cumulonimbus turns into a thunderstorm cell.

Dissipating stage

It is the final stage. Thunderstorms generally disappear after 30 minutes. Whenever downdrafts dominate the cloud’s updraft, the updraft disappears. The warm moist air can’t rise anymore.

Since the warm moist air can no longer rise because of this downdraft dominance, cloud droplets will stop forming. The storm will disappear when the cloud evaporates from top to bottom.

Thunderstorm Analysis

There are three types of thunderstorms, categorized by their structure. These types are as follows: single-cell thunderstorm, multi-cell thunderstorm and supercell thunderstorm. 

Single-cell thunderstorm

Single-cell storms are thunderstorms created by just one convection cell in the atmosphere. Most of these thunderstorms are small, lasting for about an hour. They are also called ordinary thunderstorms.

These storms are often created during the summer season and include towering cumulonimbus clouds that can develop 12 kilometres high in the atmosphere. Rain and lightning are popular. Sometimes hail drops.

Multi-cell Thunderstorms

Some thunderstorms are composed of many convection cells moving as a single unit. They are called multi-cell thunderstorms. Often the convection cells are organized as a cluster, with each cell at a different stage of the thunderstorm cycle. 

A squall line is often formed by multi-cell thunderstorms if they are along a cold or warm front. The squall line can reach up to 600 miles (1000 km) long. Strong wind gusts often blow just before the storm.

Where Do Thunderstorms Occur Most Often?

  • Thunderstorms most often form within areas located at mid-latitude where warm moist air front hits and border cool air fronts.
  • Thunderstorms are quite rare in Alaska, New England, North Dakota, Montana, and other northern states where the air is commonly cold.
  • Thunderstorms are also commonly rare along the Pacific Coast because the summertime air there is quite dry.
  • Florida‘s Gulf Coast suffers the greatest number of thunderstorms than any of the U.S. locations.
  • Thunderstorms typically occur 130 days per year in Florida.
  • Thunderstorms typically occur 60–90 days per year in the Gulf Coast.
  • Thunderstorms typically occur 50–80 days per year in the mountains of New Mexico.
  •  Thunderstorms typically occur 20 to 60 days per year in Central Europe and Asia. 

Thunderstorm Diagram

What is Lightning?

Lightning is a powerful electrical current made during a thunderstorm. The electric current is very hot and makes the air around it expand very fast, which in turn causes thunder. Sometimes it happens on the cloud level, or it goes to the ground.

Water drops and ice particles inside a cloud hold electrical charges. Some of these electrical charges are positive while others are negative. Lightning occurs usually when a lot of negative charges develop in a cloud. 

To make these negative charges balanced, positive charges form under the cloud on the ground. Since opposite charges attract, the negative charges in the cloud want to unite with the positive charges on the ground.

It is difficult for the charges to unite because electricity does not move smoothly through the air. As the cloud develops, the strength of the charges develops too. Finally, the charges dominate the air and the cloud unleashes a powerful, negatively charged electrical current.

Since the negative current moves toward the ground, a positively charged current skips from the ground to meet it. When the currents unite, a bright flash is created that moves back up toward the cloud. This is a lightning spark. This process repeats until all the negative charges in the cloud are used.

A spark can reach 5 miles long. It would take up to 80 million car batteries to match the power of one thunderbolt. A single lightning flash has enough power to light a 100-watt bulb for three months!

The speed of light is faster than that of sound. This is the reason why we usually see lightning before we hear the thunder. To know how far away the lightning storm is from you, count the seconds between the flash and the sound. Observe the flash of lightning. Time how long it is before you hear the crack of the thunder. Divide the number of seconds -the time difference- by 5. The solution is the relative number of miles away.

For example, if the thunder rumbles 20 seconds after the lightning flash, then it is about 4 miles away. Math: 20 seconds / 5 = 4 miles.

What is Thunder?

Thunder is the terrifying crack you hear after a lightning flash. The lightning flash heats the air around it so fast. As a result, the air expands very fast. Then, it makes a shock current in the air. That current is the thunder you hear.

Thunder makes a very loud noise because the amount of electrical energy that releases from the cloud to the ground is so big. Since Light travels faster than sound, you see lightning first. When the time difference between lightning and thunder is so short this means the lightning is closed to the ground.

There are different sounds for thunder, it can be like a deafening bag when you stand in a close place where the lightning hits the ground. It can also be a cracking sound when the air cools and shrinks. It can sound like a low grumble if the air keeps on shaking from the lightning bolt. 

Damages Caused by Thunderstorms

  • Rainfall from thunderstorms results in flash flooding which kills a lot of people every year.
  • Lightning is the reason for many fires around the world each year and causes huge losses.
  • Hail in big size damages cars and windows, and kills farm animals left out in the open.
  • Strong straight-line winds, about 120 mph or more, connected to thunderstorms strike down trees, power lines and landlines. 
  • Thunderstorms can result in tornadoes which are one of the most destructive forces. They can cause major damages to infrastructure and buildings

Advantages of Thunderstorms

  • Thunderstorms cause rainfalls which provide plants, humans, lakes and reservoirs with water. 
  • A thunderstorm functions as a cooling tool for the earth. Without it, the percentage of heat in the atmosphere would significantly increase, which becomes negative for the living creature.
  • Lightning releases Nitrogen which is one of the most important elements for farming. Lightning turns the nitrogen gas into nitrogen compounds which benefit the fertility of the soil.
  • Thunderstorms help in clearing a huge amount of pollution from the atmosphere. They clean the air providing us with fresh air.
  • We enjoy watching the fantastic spectacle of a rainbow after a thunderstorm.
  • Lightning caused by thunderstorms helps maintain the electrical balance between the earth and the atmosphere.

Some useful tips to Stay Safe

  • When you hear the crack of thunder, go to a safe place immediately.
  • The perfect place to go is a strong building or a car, but make sure to close all the windows in the car.
  • If there is no safe place to go to, stay away from trees.
  • If you are a group of people, stay about 15 feet from each other.
  • Stay away from water. It’s a perfect conductor of electricity.
  • Any water sport is not safe during a thunderstorm.
  • Stay away from any metal.
  • It’s better not to use a landline phone because lightning may hit exterior phone lines.
  • Do not use electric equipment like home appliances.

Some Interesting Facts about Thunderstorms

  • There are three types of thunderstorms: single-cell, multi-cell cluster, and supercell.
  • The diameter of the average thunderstorm measures around 15 miles. 
  • The average thunderstorm holds 13.2 million gallons of water vapor into the Earth’s atmosphere and unleashes a tremendous amount of energy. 
  • Thunderstorms pass by three stages: developing stage, mature stage and dissipation stage.
  • Thunderstorms need three components to form: moisture, a lift mechanism and unstable rising air.
  • Winter thunderstorm causes snow instead of rain as precipitation, but will still cause thunder and lightning.
  • There are an average of 16 million thunderstorms across the globe every year.
  • Thunderstorms don’t just happen on Earth, they’ve been noticed on other planets like Jupiter, Neptune, Saturn and Venus.
  • Some thunderstorms are violent enough to produce tornadoes.
  • Thunderstorms can cause winds as fast as 300 mph.
  • Lightning is considered the most dangerous feature of a thunderstorm.
  • Thunderstorms have some advantages like cooling the earth.
  • For safety indoors, a person has to be away from any electrical appliances and water.
  • For safety outdoors, a person has to be away from trees and water.

Thunderstorm Experiment

ٍSupplies needed:

  • Plastic containers
  • Food colouring (red and blue)
  • Ice cube tray
  • Some room-temperatured water

Steps:

1. Add water into the ice cube tray.

2. Add one drop of blue food colouring to each section.

3. Stick it in the freezer.

4. Fill in the plastic container with room temperature water.

5. Take a couple of the blue ice cubes and put them on one side of the clean container at the same time put drops of red food colouring to the other side of the container. 

6. The cold front is now represented by the blue food colouring, the warm air is represented by the red food colouring.

7. The warm air is forced to rise over the colder air which finally caused the thunderstorm.

Conclusion

Thunderstorms occur everywhere in the world when there is unstable air, moisture and a lift. They most probably happen in summer and spring. Although thunderstorms have destructive effects, they have good effects too. Lightning and thunder are some of the characteristics of thunderstorms. 

Electricity: Definition, Types, and 20 Tips

Electricity plays an important role in about every aspect of modern-day living. It gives the power to almost all of the daily life appliances, such as microwaves, Air Fryer, TV. etc. It is considered a physical phenomenon, it is not invented by humans. 

Benjamin Franklin is credited with the discovery of electricity since he proved that lightning is a state of electrical energy after applying his kite experiment. Electric current is measured in amperes, it is abbreviated as “amps”.

Electricity is a kind of energy that can assemble in one place or rush from one place to another. If electricity gathers in one place it is named static electricity, which indicates that it doesn’t move. While electricity that moves is named current electricity.  

What Do You Know about Electrical Circuts?

A circuit is a path for electrons to move through. These circuits allow electricity to be used to provide power to any electrical device. Electricity can only move through a complete circuit that has no gaps. In the 1800s, Alessandro Volta designed the first battery which could supply a constant flow of current.

A circuit consists of some parts that are known as components. The first component is called the power source or the voltage source. It drives the electricity through the circuit. Connectors are another component. They connect all the parts of the circuit and make the path that the electricity moves through. They are often composed of wire or other metal.

The load is the third component of a circuit. It is powered by the electricity in a circuit. It could be a toaster, a TV, a fan, or any electronic gadget used every day. Finally, most circuits have a switch that switches the power on and off. 

A circuit can be composed in 2 ways: series circuits and parallel circuits. In a series circuit, there is one single path where the electricity flows. So, the amount of current is the same throughout the path. 

However, the amount of current that moves through each device differs because, the more devices are added, the less the amount of current flowing through each device.

In a parallel circuit, the current is divided into several paths. Each part in a parallel circuit is on a separate branch. One of the parts like a bulb can be turned on or off without impacting the others in a parallel circuit.

There are different paths through which the electricity moves in a parallel circuit. This means that the amount of current is different at different points in the circuit. Each component of a parallel circuit is separate from the other, so adding more bulbs does not affect the amount of current on each branch.

Accordingly, in a series circuit, if we add more bulbs, it affects the brightness of the light. On the other hand, in a parallel circuit adding more bulbs doesn’t affect the brightness of the light.


Benjamin Franklin and Electricity

He was an American scientist. He began analyzing the phenomenon of electricity in 1746. His famous kite experiment was to prove that lightning is electricity. He tied a wire to one end of the kite and a metal key to the other end of the kite.

He flew the kite in a thunderstorm. He used a Leyden jar as well to store the electric charge. He successfully proved that lightning transferred from the key to the jar. As a result, Ben invented the lightning rod, which helps to maintain buildings safe from lighting.

What is a Static Electricity?

Static electricity is the formation of an electrical charge on the surface of an object. Static charges form when two surfaces scratch together and electrons move from one surface to another. This makes one object has a negative charge and one have a positive charge.

Lightening is a typical example of the impacts of static electricity. During a storm clouds move by each other and electrons jump from one cloud to another, making clouds have strong positive or negative charges. These charges are attracted to each other and finally jump through the air causing an amazing spark.

Interesting Facts about Electricity

  • Electricity travels at the same speed as light, which is more than 186,000 miles per hour.
  • Volt is the unit of electric force that estimates the possible strength of the current.
  • Water is not a conductor, however, the impurities cause it to conduct electricity.
  • One flash of static electricity can calculate up to 3,000 volts.
  • Electricity is a natural power and was not invented by humans.
  • Benjamin Franklin is the one who discovered electricity.
  • The unit of measurement for electricity is the watt which equals 1 J/s.
  • Electricity can be created by the sun, wind, water, and animal poop also.
  • The Statue of Liberty was the first lighthouse that utilised electricity in 1886.
  • Some creatures use electricity as a way of hunting or for self-defence such as electric eels.
  • Power plants are also called power stations, generating stations, or generating plants.
  • The first power plant was constructed in 1882, possessed by Thomas Edison.
  • Almost all the power plants throughout the world use fossil fuels to generate electricity.
  • In 2018, the biggest source of electricity generation went to natural gas power plants.
  • There are other sources of electric generation that has the smallest impact on the environment and the planet like renewable energy sources (like solar, hydroelectric, geothermal)
  • Current electricity can be in one of 2 forms: the form of DC (direct current) or AC (alternating current).
  • The main difference between DC and AC is the direction of the current flow.

Hydropower Facts and Gravity Science

Hydroelectric energy, also named hydroelectric power or hydroelectricity, is a form of renewable energy that uses the water, stored or flowing, to generate electricity. 

Over 20% of the world’s electricity is produced by utilising hydroelectric power. Tidal power is another form of hydropower that uses the energy of tides to produce electricity. The largest hydroelectric power station in the world is the Three Gorges Dam which is located in China.

Most hydroelectric power plants have a supply of water, a gate to manage the amount of water that flows out of the reservoir, and a portal or a place where the water stops after flowing downward. 

Water has potential energy just before it falls out of the top of a dam or moves down a hill. The potential energy is turned into kinetic energy once water moves downhill. The water can be used to turn the blades of a turbine to produce electricity, which is provided to the power plant’s customers.

There are three different types of hydroelectric energy plants, the most popular is an impoundment facility. In an impoundment facility, a dam is used to manage the flow of water stored in a reservoir. 

When more energy is required, water is unleashed from the dam. Once water is released, gravity controls and the water moves downward through a turbine. As the blades of the turbine turn, they give the power to a generator.

A diversion facility is another type of hydroelectric energy plant. This type of plant is special because it does not utilise a dam. Rather, it uses a series of canals to channel flowing river water toward the generator-powering turbines.

A pumped-storage facility is the third type of plant. This plant gathers the energy generated from solar, wind, and nuclear power and stores it for future use. The plant stores energy by pumping water uphill from a reservoir at a lower height to a reservoir found at a higher elevation. 

When there is an increased demand for electricity, water located in the higher pool is unleashed. Once this water flows back down to the lower reservoir, it spins a turbine to produce more electricity.

Hydroelectric energy is the most generally-used renewable source of electricity. The largest producer of hydroelectricity is China. Other top producers of hydropower all over the world include the U.S.A, Brazil, Canada, India, and Russia. Roughly 71% of all of the renewable electricity produced on Earth is from hydropower.

Dangers of Electricity and Electrical Safety Tips

Kids are inherently curious and do not know the dangers of electricity. Introducing them the basic information about the power of electricity and the danger of electrical shock saves them from harm. Here are some of these dangers: 

  • Electricity can make burns, shocks and even death.
  • Devices and power wires can be just as harmful s electrical power lines if you do not take appropriate safety protection.
  • Electricity moves easily through water, and it can travel through the human body because it is made of 70 % water.
  • The muscles in the body get tensed and cause choking making it hard for the kid to breathe.
  • It makes the heartbeat get disordered which in turn tightens the blood vessels.
  • Electricity if not managed appropriately has the power to cause severe internal damage multiple hours later after suffering the shock.

Let’s move to the safety tips:

  • Never cling your fingers or anything into an electrical outlet or light socket.
  • Keep fingers and other things out of small appliances, such as the boiler, even if the device is turned off.
  • Never use an appliance near any source of water.
  • Keep electrical wires and cords far from sources of heat.
  • Keep electrical cords far from any sources of water.
  • Never touch any electrical appliance or device, like a hairdryer, when you are touching the water.
  • Never remove an electric plug out of the wall outlet by pulling the electric cord.
  • Unplug any electrical device before cleaning it.
  • Replace torn cords on the spot to avoid getting shocks.
  • Never touch broken wires that are lying on the ground. Keep a safe space from such live wires to avoid getting shocked.
  • Never charge phones under the pillow as they get overheated and catch power.
  • Stay away from power stations.
  • Never fly kites around power lines, instead find an open area.
  • Never climb trees that are next to power lines or have power lines tied through them.
  • Never swim if there is a thunderstorm.
  • Never climb on borders around electric substations.
  • Never throw objects, like shoes or fibres onto electric power lines.
  • Never touch an electrical line with your hands or even fingers or anything.
  • Do not stick posters or banners on electric utility poles.

How Can We Save Electric Energy?

  • Turn off the lights and electrical gadgets while leaving the place.
  • Limit electronic usage to minimize charge time which in turn saves electricity.
  • Unplug electronic device chargers once they are fully charged.
  • Don’t keep the refrigerator door open.
  • Plant a tree to shade the house on hot summer days.
  • Keep the curtains closed during the day in summer to block the sun’s heat.

Conclusion

Electricity is very important in about every aspect of modern-day living. Benjamin Franklin is an American scientist who discovered electricity. The circuit is the path for the electrons to produce electricity. One of the most common ways to generate electricity is through Hydroelectric energy.

Although electricity can result in some dangers, there are some safety tips to avoid these dangers. It’s also very important to know different ways and tips to save electric energy.

Our planet Earth is full of wonders and marvels. From nature and marine life in the oceans and rivers, mountains and waterfalls to the complicated yet miraculous structure of the human body. If we look around, or inside, we will always be in awe of the stunning arrangement of the system we live in.

The great set-up in which our planet Earth operates did not come into existence overnight. Previously on Learningmole.com, we have understood how the Solar System formed 4.5 billion years ago. Everything that we have now started as small as a speck of dust then evolved.

Today, we are going to look into one of these marvels of our planet which is so indispensable for life. Well, what I want to say is that we will not actually be here without it. Today, we are learning about the atmosphere of Earth.

What is the atmosphere?

Earth’s atmosphere is known as the thick layer of gases that wrap our planet. We may also call it air. Such a layer extends from the surface of Earth to 10,000 km above. That is the distance from Cairo, Egypt in Northern Africa to Cape Town in South Africa! That is an enormous distance!

It is interesting to mention here that although we say that the atmosphere’s height is 10,000 km above sea level, actually there is no dividing line between the last level of the atmosphere and the beginning of outer space. They only just merge into one another.

The atmosphere is as heavy as 5.5 quadrillion tons! That is a really big mass! And it is puzzling as well. We can imagine air as something light, very light actually it is almost weightless! But it is not. In fact, such a very heavy weight is literally above our heads and 66.6% of it is found at a height of 11 km from Earth’s surface.

But how does the atmosphere stay in place and wrap Earth? Why does it not escape to space? Well, it is Earth’s gravity that pulls the atmosphere down. This pulling action creates a force on Earth’s surface known as the atmospheric pressure.

Why is the atmosphere incredibly important?

We literally cannot live without the atmosphere. Not only because we need oxygen to breathe, but also because the atmosphere is responsible for so many essential aspects of life. 

For example, the atmospheric pressure turns water vapor into liquid water. Such a process is called condensation. With liquid water, life on Earth is possible. That is the first reason why the atmosphere is very important to us.

Secondly, the atmosphere prevents the heat coming from the Sun from escaping back to space. This happens as the surface of Earth absorbs sunlight and radiates heat. But carbon dioxide absorbs such heat and traps it in the atmosphere. This warms the surface of Earth and makes it suitable for us to live on it. This is known as the greenhouse effect.

When the heat is locked in the atmosphere, it also keeps the night less cold which allows life on Earth. If there were no atmosphere at all, Earth would be so hot during the day and so cold during night that no living being would be able to survive.

The atmosphere also protects us from meteors. Meteors are small objects of rocks or metal that hit the Earth from outer space. They are a lot smaller than asteroids. Actually, they can be as small as a grain or as big as one meter-wide. When such meteors hit Earth, the atmosphere burns them before reaching the surface and causing any harm. When they burn, they create a ball of fire that we know as a shooting star.

📌 Yearly, an automobile size asteroid hits Earth but the atmosphere burns it before reaching the surface.

The atmosphere is also important because it protects us from the Sun’s harmful waves. These waves are called ultraviolet radiation. If anyone gets exposed to it, it will damage their skin cells and may also give them cancer. Luckily, we have the atmosphere to protect us.

In addition, the atmosphere has oxygen which we need to breathe and carbon dioxide which plants need to generate oxygen for us. That is why the atmosphere is very important for life on Earth.

Earth’s atmosphere is composed of 78% nitrogen (N), 20.95% oxygen (O2), 0.93% argon (Ar), 0.04% carbon dioxide (CO2), and little amounts of different other gases.

📌 All planets have an atmosphere, except Mercury.

Then how did the atmosphere form?

Well, let’s get a little back in time, 4.5 billion years back to be precise.

Earth’s atmosphere started once Earth settled as a big ball of rocks. Scientists believe that our atmosphere has passed by different stages to be what it is today. So let’s explore these stages one by one, from the very beginning to the present moment.

Earliest atmosphere

The very first stage of the formation of Earth’s atmosphere started 4.5 billion years ago. The atmosphere was mostly hydrogen (H) at the time with little amounts of water vapor, ammonia (NH3), and methane (CH4).

The second atmosphere

Around 3.5 billion years ago on Earth, there was an extremely intense series of volcanic eruptions that swept gases from the interior of Earth and released them into the atmosphere. 

Simultaneously, Earth was bombarded by asteroids, rocks, and particles left over from the formation of the Solar System. These rocks failed to form planets on their own so they started hitting Earth. Such an event is known as the Late Heavy Bombardment and is believed to have lasted for about 700 million years.

These two events changed the then hydrogen-rich atmosphere significantly. The new atmosphere consisted of nitrogen (N), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and other gases. Nitrogen made up the major part of the atmosphere.

Third atmosphere

While Earth was dealing with the crazy volcanoes we mentioned earlier around 3.5 billion years ago, the very first form of life on Earth appeared. It was a microorganism known as anaerobic bacteria. It lived in the ocean and did not require oxygen to survive. Well, this makes sense because the atmosphere had no oxygen in the first place.

Over hundreds of millions of years, some bacteria evolved until they obtained the ability to produce energy using photosynthesis, just like plants. This bacteria is called Cyanobacteria and is now found everywhere on Earth.

Cyanobacteria started absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. With the help of water and sunlight, it could produce sugars to use for energy and released oxygen (O2) as a waste product.

This oxygen was then released into the ocean. But the anaerobic bacteria (remember them from above?) were allergic to oxygen. And with all this newly produced oxygen, the ocean was full of toxins for the poor anaerobic bacteria which killed them all.

Scientists called this event the first mass extinction in history. It is also called The Great Oxygenation event or The Oxygen Catastrophe. This is one time when oxygen played the bad guy.

Anyways, oxygen (O2) also oxidized the materials in the ocean, notably iron. So, when the ocean was full of oxygen, it started to be released into the atmosphere and accumulated. It also reacted with methane (CH4) to form carbon dioxide (CO2). As Cyanobacteria reproduced fast, it absorbed a great amount of carbon dioxide from the air and released more and more oxygen.

With Cyanobacteria absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and oxygen (O2) reacting with methane (CH4), the amounts of these two greenhouse gases decreased significantly. Consequently, there was nothing to keep Earth warm so the temperature went down so much that Earth became very cold. Many believe that this was the beginning of the first ice age.

Though, oxygen remained active. About 600 million years ago, and as oxygen (O2) accumulated in the air, it started to absorb the ultraviolet radiation coming from the Sun. This caused the oxygen molecule (O2) to split into two atoms (O and O). Such single atoms then combined with oxygen molecules (O2) to form ozone (O3).

Ozone (O3) piled up and formed a band that shielded the entire Earth. This shield absorbed all the ultraviolet radiation and prevented it from reaching Earth’s surface. Such an act enabled life to be possible on the surface of Earth and not just exclusive to the oceans.

Since then, the levels of oxygen (O2) in the atmosphere varied until they reached a steady percentage of more than 15%, then reached its peak of 30% around 280 million year ago. Scientists do not know why oxygen levels fluctuated. But it finally reached a steady level at 21% of the atmosphere.

So now we understand how our atmosphere came to be 78% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, and 0.04% carbon dioxide.

Layers of the atmosphere

We mentioned before that the atmosphere extends from the surface of Earth to 10,000 km up. Despite this great distance, the atmosphere is nowhere near bulky! In fact, the atmosphere is composed of five different layers. Each layer has a different length and many many different features. Let’s explore them one by one.

(1) Troposphere

The troposphere is the first layer of the atmosphere. It extends from the surface of Earth to several kilometers up in the sky. This thickness changes based on where you are. For instance, if you are at the north or south poles, the troposphere will extend to only 6 km. But if you are at the equator, the troposphere is 18 km thick. So the average thickness of the troposphere is 13 km, from the surface of Earth up. The troposphere contains 75% of the mass of the whole atmosphere as well.

Because it starts from the surface of Earth, the troposphere contains the greatest amount of water vapor. This is because water vapor stems from oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, as well as plants. Water vapor then creates clouds which in turn drive rain and snow. That is why the weather phenomena happen in the troposphere.

The troposphere is also known for having air turbulence. The hot surface of Earth heats the air above it. But the warmer air is more buoyant than the cool air so it floats higher pushing the cool air down toward the surface. The hot surface then heats the cool air which goes up letting the air which is now cooler go down. This air movement is called turbulence.

📌 In fact, the troposphere is called troposphere because the word ‘tropo’ means rotation in Greek. It refers to the rotation of air, turbulence, which occurs in this layer.

When it comes to temperature, we find it changes just like the thickness of the troposphere. At the equator, the temperature ranges from 20°C on the surface to −75°C at the end of the troposphere. At the poles, the temperature starts from 0°C to −45°C at the end of the layer. The poles are icy, you know!

So the higher we go, the lower the temperature gets. But at some point, the temperature ceases to decrease with height. This is exactly where the troposphere ends and where the tropopause starts.

The tropopause is the boundary between the troposphere and the second layer of the atmosphere, the stratosphere. In this pause layer, air temperature does the exact opposite. It increases the higher we go (we will know why in a bit). That means the warmer air is above the cooler air. That is why the tropopause is called the inversion layer.

(2) Stratosphere

The stratosphere is the second layer of the atmosphere after the troposphere. It starts from the end of the tropopause and extends for 35 km higher. Temperature in this layer ranges from −51°C to −3°C at the end of this layer.

Wait! −51°C is colder than −15°C! That means the temperature at the beginning of the layer is colder than the end. That also means the higher we go, the warmer it gets, just like the tropopause! So why does this happen? Why does the temperature increase with height?

Well, this is due to the ozone layer, the guardian angel that protects Earth from the dangerous ultraviolet radiation coming from the Sun.

Do you remember how ozone forms? Yes, that happens when an oxygen atom (O) combines with an oxygen molecule (O2). Scientists have found that ozone is better at absorbing ultraviolet radiation. And this absorption heats up the stratosphere.

As the temperature rises the higher we go, this creates different layers of temperature along the stratosphere. That is why it was called stratosphere because strato means layer.

Because these layers have ascending temperatures, warmer air is always above the cooler air and this is exactly where they should be. So air is stable where it is; it does not move. As a result, there is no turbulence in the stratosphere.

📌 Because there is no turbulence, airplanes like to fly in this region of the atmosphere. Since there is not much air resistance, planes can fly faster and burn less fuel.

What is interesting is that some birds such as rüppell’s vulture and bar-headed geese can fly as high as in the stratosphere!

And just like the tropopause, there is the stratopause at the end of the stratosphere. It acts like a border between this layer and the next one, the mesosphere. The stratopause stretches for about 5 km.

(3) Mesosphere

Now with the third layer of the atmosphere: the mesosphere. This layer extends from the stratopause at a height of 50 km from surface level to around 80-85 km above. That means the mesosphere is around 35 km thick.

Since the mesosphere is the third layer, it is the middle one. That is why it is called meso because meso is a Greek word that means middle.

Leaving the ozone layer behind, the temperature goes back to its first behavior. It decreases with altitude. The mesosphere has an average temperature of −85 °C. At the end of the mesosphere, there is the mesopause which marks the end of this layer and the beginning of the layer after.

The mesopause extends for 15 km; from 85 km from sea level to 100 km. It is the coldest region on the planet since its temperature is −143°C. And because it is very high in the sky, sometimes it is referred to as near space.

The mesosphere is where meteors burn, resulting in meteor showers or shooting stars. When meteors and small asteroids enter the mesosphere, they collide with the air. This collision is called friction which generates fire (just like when you grind two rocks against each other fast to get fire).

So the mesosphere protects us from dangerous bodies coming from space.

Given that it is so high in the sky, planes cannot fly in the mesosphere. Satellites are not located there as well because they orbit Earth at a much higher level. And even though scientists can send rockets, they can only study the mesosphere for a few minutes.

As a result, we do not know much about the mesosphere. Unfortunately. That is why the mesosphere got its nickname: ignorosphere!

(4) Thermosphere

Thermosphere is the fourth layer of the atmosphere. It starts from the mesopause and extends for a thickness of 513 km. That is by far the thickest layer we have studied so far. It is called thermo which refers to heat.

Like the stratosphere, the thermosphere absorbs the Sun’s highly energetic radiation which creates heat within the layer. Sometimes, the temperature can reach 2000°C and even more. The temperature also increases with higher altitudes.

The International Space Station (ISS) resides in this region and orbits Earth. This station is a cooperative project between five different countries in which scientists stay in orbit and study space.

Space shuttles and satellites also orbit Earth from the thermosphere. Space shuttles are rockets that can be used multiple times to travel to and from space. They are used to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station. They can also stay in orbit for some time so scientists can study different features of space.

One of the most successful and popular space shuttles is Discovery, developed by NASA, which stayed in work for 27 years from 1984 until it retired in 2011.

Wait!

If the temperature of the thermosphere can get to as high as 2000°C, why then did the International Space Station, nor space shuttles and satellites not melt?

That is a good question! To answer it, we need to learn how heat is transferred.

For liquids and gases, heat is transferred by a process called convection. Any gas has atoms or molecules and they are free to move because the distances between them are large. When we heat a gas, the molecules take the heat energy and they start to move faster.

As molecules go crazy from here to there, they collide with other molecules and give them some of this energy. And there you go, heat is transferred.

When distances between atoms or molecules increase so much, we call the gas less dense or thin. And the air in the thermosphere is very thin.

Keeping this in mind, let’s get back to the thermosphere and look into what happens in it:

  1. Molecules absorb the ultraviolet radiation and get so energetic.
  2. The temperature of the molecules rises so much, sometimes it reaches 2000°C.
  3. Molecules move around so fast trying to collide with other molecules to give them energy but they find no one because other molecules are so far-distant.
  4. Eventually, heat stays inside the molecules and is never transferred.

In fact, if we go to the thermosphere, we would feel cold rather than hot! That is why astronauts at the International Space Station never melt.

(4.1) Ionosphere

As the ozone layer is within the stratosphere, the ionosphere is a layer within parts of the mesosphere and it takes the entire layer of thermosphere as well as some parts of the exosphere (the fifth and last layer of the atmosphere).

The ionosphere extends for a distance of 917 kilometers! It is called ionosphere because it is ionized. To understand what ‘ionized’ means, we need to go back to the very first chemistry lesson: atoms and molecules.

An atom is the smallest particle there is. A molecule is made of two or more atoms connected together. An atom has a nucleus, protons, electrons, and neutrons. Protons and neutrons are inside the nucleus while electrons orbit the nucleus.

Protons have a positive charge but neutrons, you guessed it, are neutral. It means they have no electric charges. Meanwhile, electrons have a negative charge. And they spin around the nucleus in an orbit, just like Earth orbits the Sun.

Each atom is neutral because it has an equal number of protons (+) and electrons (-). These two opposite charges cancel each other so the atom stays neutral. 

When the number of electrons and protons is unequal, the atom is called an ion. Ions are electrically charged. If the number of electrons is higher than the number of protons, ions are negatively charged and vice versa. They are positively charged if the protons are more than the electrons.

Back to our topic..

We have mentioned in the thermosphere that gases in this layer absorb the ultraviolet waves from the Sun. This tremendous energy pushes an electron or two out of their 

atom which turns it into a positive ion. These free electrons collide with other atoms and make them negative ions.

This ionization process makes the oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the thermosphere produce free electrons and light. Oxygen gives out green and red light. Nitrogen glows blue and purple. This light can be seen from Earth and we know it as aurora.

If you live anywhere in Norway, Sweden, Alaska, or Canada, you will be able to see auroras.

📌 Since the ionization process is activated by the highly energetic radiation from the Sun, the thickness of the ionosphere changes dramatically during the day and at night.

(5) Exosphere

The exosphere is the outermost layer of the atmosphere and the largest in distance as well. It extends from the thermopause, which marks the end of the thermosphere, for 9300 km! 

In this part of the atmosphere, the air is so thin. This means that there are great distances between gas molecules so they do not collide with each other. The gases in this layer are mostly hydrogen and helium.

The exosphere is hence the perfect home for satellites because they can orbit Earth without any problems of friction or disruption since the air is very thin.

Weather

We cannot mention the atmosphere without discussing the weather. Weather is a very distinctive feature of Earth’s atmosphere and it dramatically affects how we live on this planet as well as the development of humanity in general.

When we think of weather, we know we are referring to how hot or cold a day is and whether or not it is rainy or windy. Well, this is pretty correct. Weather is caused by changes in the air temperature, air pressure, and how much water vapor is in there. That is why most weather phenomena happen within the troposphere.

Why does weather happen?

To understand how changes in the air temperature, pressure, and amount of water vapor determine the weather events we are familiar with, let’s study the lifecycle of water vapor.

Humidity

We can define humidity as how much water vapor there is in the air. Heat from the Sun causes water from rivers, lakes, oceans, seas, and even dew on leaves to evaporate. Water then turns into its gas state and becomes vapor. When we feel it is too humid, this is because there is so much water vapor in the air.

Clouds

We have learned before that in the troposphere, the higher we go, the colder it gets. So when water vapor goes high in the air where it is cooler, it starts to condense on teeny-tiny particles such as dust, salt crystals, and ash, which act as surfaces to the water vapor.

So water vapor condenses and goes back to its liquid state, water. Well, it actually forms water droplets. Water droplets then accumulate and form a cloud. Sometimes, if it is too cold (temperature is usually 0°C or lower), water droplets turn into ice crystals and form an ice cloud.

So if clouds are pure liquid water or ice in the form of droplets, why do they not fall down from the clouds? How can clouds float in the air?

Well that is a good question. Let’s know how this happens.

Everything on the surface of the planet as well as the atmosphere that extends for 10,000 km above is pulled down by Earth’s gravity. And for an object to fall down, it must also have a mass. The heavier an object is, the faster it falls back to Earth. And vice versa. That is why a rock reaches the ground so fast but a balloon takes longer.

Those water or ice droplets in the clouds are so tiny. Their weight is so small that Earth’s gravity does not affect them. And because the air is dense, it pushes them up so they float in the clouds. As a result, they do not fall back to Earth.

Clouds grow at different altitudes from Earth’s surface. Based on where they are in the atmosphere, they can be classified in three different categories. Low-level Clouds form at ground level to almost 2 km up. Mid-level Clouds start at a height of 2 km and have a range of 5 km (to 7 km up). High-level Clouds start at altitudes of 5 km up to 12-13 km.

Fog

When clouds form at or near ground level, they are called fog. Usually fog forms at a height lower than 15 m. When it is higher than that, it is a cloud.

Precipitation

When water droplets in a cloud get so large and heavy that the air cannot carry them anymore, they get subjected to Earth’s gravitational pull and they fall back down to the surface of Earth. This falling water is called precipitation.

Precipitation includes different types, some of which are very familiar to us and others may sound a little bizarre:

  1. Drizzle
  2. Rain
  3. Sleet
  4. Snow
  5. Graupel
  6. Hail

Each one of those takes specific conditions to form. So let’s discuss them one by one.

Drizzle vs. Rain vs. Sleet

Precipitation includes different types which depend on either the size of the water droplets or the conditions at which they form. If the water droplets falling from the clouds have a diameter of less than 0.5 mm, they are called drizzles.

If the droplet’s size is 0.5 mm or bigger, it is called rain. Rain can be light, moderate, or heavy based on its intensity. When sunlight passes through rain droplets, light is scattered to its seven colors which we collectively call the rainbow.

If the temperature where the cloud is located is 0°C or lower, droplets of drizzle or rain turn into ice as they fall. These icy balls are usually less than 0.76 cm in diameter and we call them sleet.

Snowflakes

Sometimes during the formation process of clouds and when the temperature gets very low, usually below 0°C, water vapor condenses directly to ice crystals without going through its liquid form. These ice crystals accumulate to form an ice cloud.

Then, ice crystals absorb more water vapor and freeze it. The result of this is the formation of more crystals onto one another. These crystals are called snow clusters or aggregates which then fall to the ground forming the familiar white snow blanket.

While ice crystals are fairly clear, these resultant snow clusters are white. This is because the snow clusters reflect light in all directions until it goes out of it. The reflected light includes all colors which together look white.

Typically, as the ice crystals aggregate to form clusters, they would cluster in 6-armed symmetrical or almost symmetrical hexagon shapes. These perfect shapes have confused scientists for years. Finally, we understood that they are mainly influenced by the chemistry of water.

Water (H2O) consists of two atoms of hydrogen (H) and one atom of oxygen (O2). Usually oxygen has a negative charge and the hydrogen atom has a positive charge. This is called a water molecule. When water becomes ice, these water molecules start to attract each other and stick together.

The negative charge of oxygen attracts the positive charge of hydrogen and they result in a beautiful hexagon shape. This is called a hydrogen bond.

When ice crystals absorb water vapor which freezes onto them, these crystals take the shape of the hydrogen bond in ice. That is why snowflakes have a hexagon shape.

We mentioned that snowflakes form in ice clouds. Every cloud is subject to different conditions of temperature and humidity. The difference between such conditions controls the shape of each snowflake. It is even said that every snowflake is unique, that no two snowflakes are alike.

Sometimes the conditions are so severe that they diminish the hexagon shape altogether and make snowflakes completely irregular.

When snowflakes become heavy, they fall to the ground.

Graupel vs. Hail

Sometimes, clouds get so cold, around −40°C, but water droplets in them stay in their liquid state. In this case, they are called supercooled water droplets. When snowflakes fall through one of these supercooled clouds, the supercooled water droplets stick to the surface of the snowflake and then freezes.

These frozen water droplets then accumulate on top of the snowflake until the beautiful hexagon shape of the snowflake is no longer identified. These frozen droplets are called graupel. Graupel is usually 2–5 mm in diameter.

And these supercooled clouds are called cumulus clouds.

Thunderstorms, which we will discuss in a bit, cause air to move up, pushing graupel so it does not fall to ground. So more water droplets from the supercooled clouds stick to and freeze onto the graupel causing it to grow. When the graupel gets so heavy that the air cannot hold it anymore, it falls down to the surface and is then called hail.

Thunderstorms

Clouds form in different types, shapes, and colors that are determined based on the conditions at which they form. One of them is the very common cloud type we are all familiar with. It looks puffy, fluffy, and cotton-like. These clouds are called cumulus clouds.

Cumulus clouds create a different, bigger, and taller type of cloud called cumulonimbus. Such clouds accumulate upward and they look like towers of clouds. That is why they are called the kings of clouds.

Cumulonimbus clouds form at a height of 200 to 4,000 m and they grow upward to a maximum of 12 km from the surface of Earth. Some of these clouds were even found to grow to an altitude of 21 km! That means these towering clouds exceed the troposphere itself and even grow in the stratosphere. How gigantic! 

The temperature of the cumulonimbus clouds is usually way below 0°C and can sometimes reach −30°C. Due to such low temperatures, they have ice crystals.

Wind causes these ice crystals to move up and down fast so they collide with each other. Remember the ionization process? These collisions cause electrons to be knocked off their molecules to make them positively charged. Then free electrons collide with other ice crystals and make them negatively charged.

Moving air causes the positive charges to go to the top of the cloud and the negative ones go to its bottom. It also acts as a barrier between them so they do not attract each other.

As the ionization process continues, the negative charges at the bottom of the cloud grow magnificently. Right at this moment, they get so strong that they overcome the air barrier. So they start to attract the positive charges whether those within the cloud itself or the positive charges of the ground.

These two opposite charges move toward each other. Once they touch, the negative charges from the cloud begin to move quickly towards positive ones and a sudden flash of light bursts into the air caused by this discharge of electricity. This light is actually a very strong electric current and we know it as lightning.

The tremendous amount of negative charges is called a stepped leader because it is the one that leads the whole lightning process.

Lightning bolts are also tremendously hot, reaching a temperature of 27,760°C! That is five times hotter than the surface of the Sun!

This immense heat causes the air to expand quickly. When the expanding air moves, it makes a sonic shock sound which we know as thunder.

Thunderstorms are usually accompanied by extreme rainfall, sleet, and hail.

Wind

We might define wind as the movement of air, and this is fairly correct. But how does the air move in the first place? Well, just like something as gigantic as thunderstorms was initiated by tiny water droplets, wind is existent because of air pressure.

We have understood that air is made of different gases. We have nitrogen (N), oxygen (O2), aragorn (Ar1), and little amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor and other gases.

The molecules of these gases have weight. Since all molecules are pulled down by Earth’s gravity, their weight presses on the air or surface below them. When the number of molecules increases, this pressing force increases in return. So the pressure increases.

And vice versa, the fewer the molecules, the lower air pressure gets.

Temperature affects air pressure. Heat causes gas particles to move faster and away from one another so their number in a given area decreases and makes the pressure low. Also altitudes change air pressure. The higher we go, the fewer the air molecules. So pressure is low. 

When there are two places with high and low pressures, air would always try to equalize itself. So the air molecules of high pressure move towards the lower pressure areas to balance the pressure out. This movement is the wind.

The bigger the difference in air pressure between different places, the faster the wind blows.

Wildfires

Forest fire flame composition destructive fire that destroys trees and entire forests vector illustration

Wildfires are an extreme weather event in which fire burns plants, kills animals, pollutes the air, causes people to leave their homes, and sometimes even kills them.

Scientists could track back wildfires to 420 million years ago. They started after plants appeared on Earth. In this section, we are going to discuss how wildfires occur, how they change the atmosphere, and whether or not they have any good sides.

Wildfires happen randomly and unexpectedly. They can start from a small dwarfing spark of a leftover cigarette or by a lightning strike. Wildfires are usually initiated with the presence of three main components: heat or flame, fuel, and oxygen. And all three of these are available in the forest. 

High temperature evaporates water and makes plants, trees, grass, bush, and everything in the forest dry. Fire cannot happen if the plant has water. So dry plants are a perfect fuel for the fire. Secondly, oxygen and we already have plenty of it in the atmosphere. So what is missing? Well, we need a spark to start a fire.

The majority of wildfires are ignited by, unfortunately, people. The carelessness of people to be fair. The spark or flame which starts wildfires could be something as trivial as a cigarette leftover or when someone forgets to put out the fire they lit as they were camping in the woods.

So the tiny spark fires the poor dry plant which then reacts with oxygen in the air. As a result, fire is magnified and gases and smoke are released.

Naturally-caused wildfires

Nature itself can also cause wildfires. They occur by the extreme heat coming from the Sun, lightning strikes, volcanoes, and the wind as well.

Heat? Can heat by itself start a fire? Yes. Yes, it can. Here is how.

Every substance has a temperature called autoignition temperature. When this temperature is reached, a substance can react with oxygen (O2) and burn spontaneously without an external source of flame or spark.

Lightning strikes can also initiate wildfires because they generate very strong electric current. But if the lightning is accompanied by rain, wildfires fail to start because the rain puts out any fires. 

Volcanoes can also start wildfires using their lava. Lava is burning rocks that spread over long distances. It is extremely hot, reaching, sometimes, a temperature of 1200°C. When they reach dry grass land for instance, their tremendous heat can start a fire.

The wind also has a hand in spreading wildfires over long distances. Since it provides the fire with a bigger supply of oxygen, the wind helps the wildfire magnify and pushes it to different places. The stronger the wind blows, the faster the wildfire spreads.

📌 If the air is very humid, wildfires are less likely to happen because the water in plants will not allow the fire to happen.

But are wildfires any good?

Since wildfires started to happen ever since plants appeared on Earth, the environment, by some means, could survive through them. In other words, wildfires in and of themselves are a part of nature.

But how could nature evolve with the presence of wildfires given the destruction they leave behind? Well, that is a good question. Let’s break the answer down.

Fire clears the forest from the dead organisms that can badly affect other living organisms. When plants die or rot, they fall on the ground and build up a shield that prevents organisms in the soil from accessing their food which they get from outside such as the atmosphere. This shield also prevents small plants from growing.

So the fire burns this dead shield and gives the soil an open window to the atmosphere so it can breathe. Also when these dead plants burn, they turn into ash which is usually full of nutrients for the soil. So the soil quickly absorbs the ash to become healthy and fresh.

A healthy soil is a fertile soil. Farmers need fertile soil to grow vegetables and fruit which we need to have a healthy diet.

Another good side of wildfires is that they help some plants and insects to grow. I know this sounds strange but here is how.

When the holiday season is approaching, people start to buy or cut down trees to decorate as Christmas trees. Well, there are different types of Christmas trees, one of them is called pine trees (pineapples come from the same family by the way).

In order for new pine trees to grow, their seeds must go into the soil. But unfortunately, the seeds are stuck inside thick and stiff pitch cones and only fire can melt the pitch and allow the seed to come out.

Another benefit of wildfire is gained by a type of butterfly called karner blue (it is blue) which requires fire to come to existence. A baby butterfly is usually called a carter pillar and it has to go through a process called metamorphosis in order to grow into an adult butterfly. Yet, its food is a plant called wild lupine which does not flourish without fire.

But still, wildfires are detrimental

Despite the benefits wildfires bring to some species, they are still dangerous because they burn large areas of plants and vegetation and kill animals that live in these forests. Not only plants and animals are affected but the atmosphere and therefore us as well.

As fire burns forests, it releases large amounts of smoke, carbon dioxide (CO2), and nitrogen oxides (NO). Smoke causes air pollution in the area of wildfire as well as very distant areas because it travels so far. Smoke causes health problems to people.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas which traps the heat inside Earth’s atmosphere and prevents it from escaping to space. This, as we will see in the next section, puts our planet in danger.

Effects of human activity on the atmosphere

As we discussed earlier, the atmosphere has been evolving since the formation of Earth. It responded to the changes our planet was subjected to until it made our life on Earth possible. But, did we return the favor? Well, not quite.

In order to understand how human activity affects the atmosphere and puts our beloved planet in danger, we need to hop into a time machine and go back to 18th-century Britain.

In the mid-18th century, Britain started using machines in factories rather than people. Machines enabled the production of incredibly large amounts of products such as textiles. For the machines to work, they needed power and their power was fossil fuels.

What are fossil fuels?

Well, when animals and plants die and get buried, their bodies decompose into smaller and smaller pieces. These pieces are then mixed with the soil and with the heat from inside Earth; they turn into fuel over time. Well, I mean over millions and millions of years. And they are called fossil fuels.

When fossil fuels burn, they give out energy so humans started to use them as an energy source for the machines.

As time went by and as more technological changes were introduced to societies, the usage, and then burning, of fossil fuels increased dramatically. And now we depend on them to provide the essential needs for life. For example, we burn fossil fuels to have electricity, heat homes, and run cars and factories.

The most common types of fossil fuels are coal, natural gas, and oil. When these fuels burn, they mainly release carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NO), and methane (CH4). These gases changed the planet dramatically. They caused air pollution and global warming which may one day be responsible for the drowning of our cities. 

Besides burning fossil fuels, humans also burn waste in order to get rid of it. Fire releases smoke and chemicals that pollute the air and cause serious health problems. And let’s not forget sprays, paints, and perfumes that harm the atmosphere and magnify air pollution.

Air pollution

The gases from burning fossil fuels, smoke, and the chemicals released to the air all change the composition of the air we breathe, resulting in air pollution which causes serious health problems to humans, animals, and plants.

For example, nitrogen oxides (NO) create smog. Smog looks exactly like fog. Although fog is made of tiny water droplets and caused completely by nature, smog on the other hand is human-made fog containing harmful gases. It is called smog because it is part smoke and part fog.

On the one hand, nitrogen oxides are helpful in creating the ozone gas which we are now familiar with. Though ozone blocks the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, it is helpful only when it is in the stratosphere layer, up there. But when ozone is in the troposphere, we can breathe it.

Inhaled ozone can cause many health problems especially for kids and old people as well as those who have asthma because it causes shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing.

Global warming

Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) which are released from burning fossil fuels are greenhouse gases. That means they lock the heat coming from the Sun in the atmosphere, precisely in the troposphere, and prevent it from going back to space.

The more greenhouse gases there are in the atmosphere, the more heat is trapped inside. This increasing heat is one of such threats that endanger our planet and we know it as global warming.

Global warming increases the temperature which makes summers longer and winters shorter. This high temperature also causes wildfires to happen more frequently which in turn release large amounts of smoke and harmful gases as discussed above.

Another serious consequence of high temperature is that it causes water to evaporate at a higher rate. More water vapor means more and more clouds. Then, we have more heavy rains which cause floods, kill plants, damage the soil and make it unsuitable for growing plants anymore. Floods also damage people’s homes and drown them.

On the other hand, evaporation also causes drought. It sucks the water from plants making them dry, evaporating all water from Earth’s surface, making it water unavailable for the animals who live there. Animals hence leave those areas and look for other places where water is available. Sometimes during this relocation process, animals may die and disappear from Earth altogether. They go extinct.

However, the most serious outcome of the rising temperature is causing the ice in the north and south poles to melt. The resulting water then moves towards oceans and seas increasing their water level. When the water levels increase beyond certain points, it can flood our cities.

Increasing the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is not just serious for humans, but also for fish. When oceans absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, it makes it hard for the corals to form their homes, the reef, and may cause the existing ones to dissolve in the ocean.

This also makes food for fish less available which affects their life cycle. And since millions of people depend on fish in their diet, they will be badly affected as well.

So what can we do?

Global warming imposes serious threats on our planet and we have to take action in order to minimize them and help make our planet a safer place for us and for the upcoming generations. Here are some actions which we can take every day to help save our planet.

Save energy

Since energy from fossil fuels is used to generate electricity to run our home appliances, we can help burn less fuel when we save power. Here are some steps to do that.

  1. Switching off lights when not in use.
  2. Reducing the temperature of the heating or cooling systems.
  3. Choosing energy efficient appliances.
  4. Using LED light bulbs.
  5. Pulling the plugs.
  6. Carpooling: instead of having five individuals in five cars, we can have five individuals in one car. Thus power consumption is reduced to 20%. Bingo!
  7. Walking and cycling: they are even healthier and more fun

Throw less food

When we throw food away and it goes rotten, it produces methane which is a greenhouse gas that intensifies global warming. We can minimize food waste by buying the exact amounts of food we eat and not more than that.

Buying less food also saves energy. This is because a lot of energy is used to grow, process, package, and ship the food to distant places.

Recycling

When we recycle, then we do not need to buy a lot of stuff. This in turn reduces their production and hence less fuel is burned.

Many of the devices we cannot live without anymore such as mobile phones and laptops emit carbon (C) during their manufacturing process. This carbon reacts with oxygen (O2) to produce carbon dioxide (CO2). This causes an increase in the global warming level. 

When we use these devices efficiently, unplug them when not in use, and get them repaired instead of buying new ones, we are helping save our planet.

Save water

Water requires a huge amount of energy to clean, purify, pump, and heat. So when we use less water, in turn we use less energy. 

Conclusion

Our atmosphere is one of the millions of miracles we are surrounded by. It is one thing that has started life on Earth, making me write this article to you now and making you able to read it. It has formed, changed, evolved, and transformed to be the way it is now, just like we grow from clumsy toddlers to full-grown and independent adults. 

In this long journey in our earthly atmosphere, we demonstrated how important it is and dived into the history of its formation and evolution which started 4.5 billion years ago. In this section, we have learned that the atmosphere has passed by three main stages: earliest, second, and third atmospheres which created the structure it has now.

Then we studied this structure in detail and looked into each of the five layers starting from the troposphere where we breathe and live and experience weather, the stratosphere where our guardian angel, the ozone layer, resides, the mesosphere which burns meteors, the thermosphere where the International Space Station, space shuttles, and satellites are, and finally the exosphere which extends so far up until it dissolves in outer space. 

Through this journey of the layers of the atmosphere, we introduced many different concepts such as how heat is transferred, what an atom is and what its components are, how ions form in the ionosphere, and how they create the beautiful aurora light as well.

Then we moved to study weather closely and learned how a small process such as the evaporation of water is responsible for a great deal of weather conditions such as humidity, cloud formation, rain and snow falls, and thunderstorms. And we also learned how lightning and thunder occur. 

Next, we discussed how the wind forms and where it comes from as well as wildfires, how dangerous they are, and what part humans have in starting them. 

Lastly, we moved to how we, humans, have caused the atmosphere to suffer by burning fossil fuels to run machines and how this expanded as technology developed. Burning fossil fuels creates air pollution and global warming which threaten our life. At the very end, we finished with some small actions which when carried on by every one of us, we can help preserve our beloved atmosphere and our planet as well.

So when you take a deep breath, or see a puffy fluffy cloud in the blue sky or extend your hand to feel the drizzles, remember that you are a part of this great, extremely accurate, complex, and beautiful system and that we need to preserve it in order to continue living happily and healthily, and allow our planet to continue evolving.

On learningmole.com, we love exploring the wonders of the planet we live on. Sometimes we talk about animals, fish, plants, and butterflies. Other times, we talk about the wind, lightning, and thunderstorms. We may talk about small creatures such as insects or gigantic ones like dinosaurs. 

But no matter how big something is, we must remember that it started out small. Then it grew bigger and bigger. An adult was once a baby. A baby was once a foetus. And a mountain was once a grain of sand just like a huge ocean was once just a teeny-tiny droplet of water. 

Today we are talking to you about two giants of planet earth, the tallest mountain and its exact opposite, the deepest ocean.

The Tallest Mountain on Earth

There are a huge number of mountains on Earth. As a matter of fact, there are 1,187,049 mountains in the entire world. Some countries have so many mountains. The United States, for example, has 77,706 mountains. Other countries have no mountains at all just like Lithuania and Estonia in Europe.

Mountains help Earth stay stable. They are also important because they are a good source of freshwater which is needed for life. Besides, mountains are places where many animals and human communities live. They are beautiful as well which makes people want to visit them. This promotes tourism in countries with mountains.

A mountain usually has a steep, sloping sides, sharp ridges, a peak, or a summit. Mountains can be sandy, rocky, and snowy. They can also be volcanic. 

To us, all mountains might just be huge and tall. But they do differ in height. The lowest mountain is called Mount Tenpō and is located in Japan. It is only 4.53 m high. On the other hand, the tallest mountain which is what we are discussing today is Mount Everest.

Mount Everest 

Mount Everest is the highest mountain above sea level. It is 8,848 m tall and is already a part of the Himalayas mountain range in Southern Asia. Mount Everest is shared between Nepal and China. The locals who lived around were familiar with the mountain. They used to call it ‘Goddess Mother of the World’ and sometimes ‘Peak of Heaven’.

Although it has been on Earth for the last 60 million years ago or so, the western world did not discover Mount Everest until 1852. That year, some surveyors were hired by the British government to draw a map of India, which was a part of the British Empire at the time.

As the surveyors were doing their job, they came across a mountain that was nothing like anything they saw before. Soon after, a British pilot named James Nicolson headed to the area where the mountain was discovered. Using an instrument called a theodolite, which assists in drawing maps, he made observations of the mountain from different locations.

With these observations, Nicolson could make calculations of the peak’s height. But all his calculations were inaccurate. In 1852, an Indian mathematician came up with more developed calculations and announced Mount Everest was the tallest mountain in the world. However, his calculations had to be verified many times, over three years until they were proven accurate.

Once the newly discovered mountain was officially announced the tallest in the world, the discoverers started thinking of a name for it. They first named it ‘Peak XV’ or ‘Peak 15’ as XV is the Roman number that equals 15. Then the Royal Geographic Society renamed the mountain ‘Mount Everest’ after Sir George Everest who was once the Surveyor General prior to the mountain discovery.

Characteristics 

Mount Everest is not an abandoned rocky snowy mountain. On the contrary, many plants, animals, and even birds live there. For instance, some flowers named Arenaria grow on the mountain at a height of below 5500 m. Another plant called moss grows even higher on the mountain, around 6,480 m. These plants are pretty extraordinary because it is quite hard to live up there where it is freezing.

When it comes to animals, there is a variety of them living in the mountain as well. Some of these animals include red pandas, musk deers, wild yaks, black bears, and mountain weasels. Did you watch Kung Fu Panda 1? Remember Tai Lung? Tai Lung was a snow leopard and snow leopards live on Mount Everest. Besides, there are many other birds and insects too who live in the mountain.

Weather

Mount Everest’s temperatures range from month to month and from the base of the mountain to its summit. For instance, in winter (November to February) the temperature at the summit ranges from –30°C to –36°C and can sometimes drop to –60°C in January. In summer, which extends from June to September, the summit usually has a temperature of –20°C on average.

Mountaineers who want to climb Mount Everest are always advised to do that in spring and early summer and in autumn too. That directly translates to April, May, and June, then September and October. During these months, the weather is fairly suitable for climbing and not as freezing as in winter.

Ascending

In the early 19th century, some mountaineers from Britain tried to climb and reach the summit of Mount Everest. However, they could not enter Nepal because the government did not allow them to. So they moved around and tried to get to the mountain from the Chinese side and they could.

Two British expeditions of different climbers successfully reached heights of 7000 m and 8320 meters respectively. Although they did not reach the summit, reaching that height alone was (and still is) a great achievement. At the time, the mountaineers’ community was looking forward to the first person who would make it to the summit.

So in 1924, the third expedition of two mountaineers named George Mallory and Andrew Irvine was launched in an effort to make the awaited achievement. However, that did not happen because the two mountaineers never returned. They just disappeared.

The mountaineers’ community was shocked and scared. Everyone wondered what happened to the two climbers and whether or not they could reach the summit. The last time both mountaineers were seen was when they were just 245 m below the summit. So did they make it?

So many expeditions went out there in the mountains searching for them. But all of them failed at finding anything except Andrew Irevne’s snow axe. 

But in 1999, an American Science program called Nova and the BBC both sponsored an expedition to search for the lost pair. On May 1st, only a few hours after the expedition started, George Mallory’s body was found, mummified in the snow. Mountaineers from the expedition could recognize him from the name tag on his clothes. 

On the other hand, Andrews Irvine’s body was never found. And the question of whether or not the two British mountaineers ever reached the summit is still unanswered. 

However, the first known people to reach the summit of Mount Everest were the Nepali-Indian mountaineer Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, a mountaineer from New Zealand. Together, they went on an expedition in 1953, the year that marked the beginning of a new era of Mount Everest tourism.

As of 2022, 4000 people from different countries have successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest. Each year, around 700 to 800 people set off to climb Mount Everest. This is a large number of people given the many challenges that climbers encounter on their way up to the summit including the long period of time they spend in the cold weather hiking and climbing.

On average, climbers take around two months to reach the peak of Mount Everest. Miraculously, a Nepalese mountaineer named Pemba Dorje Sherpa could ascend from the mountain base to the summit in only 8 hours and 10 minutes on May 21st, 2004. He holds the Guinness Record as the fastest man to ever climb Mount Everest.

Permits

In order to climb Mount Everest, mountaineers have to get permits from the government of Nepal. However, not everyone is granted a permit because not everyone can climb the tallest mountain on the planet. Consequently, unless one cannot prove they are good climbers, they will probably get rejected.

The government of Nepal has even made the procedures more complicated to help reduce the number of deaths. Yes, people can potentially lose their lives while they are trying to reach the highest summit. In fact, 300 people are known to have died while climbing the mountain.

In May 2006, a British man called Myles Osborne and three other climbers were able to save a climber who was injured and almost dying in the snow. After two months of struggling with the weather fighting their way in the snow up the mountain, the team was only two hours away from the peak when they saw the injured climber.

The man was in a pretty bad situation. His ten fingers were already frozen and even bitten by the snow. He was not able to see properly or speak. He was hallucinating.

So instead of continuing their way up, the team turned their backs to the summit and hurried to rescue the man.

Challenges

There are many challenges that face climbers on their way up to the summit. If they are not well prepared or fit enough, they may face harsh problems and even face death. 

The first harsh challenge is the freezing unpredictable weather. On Mount Everest, the temperature gets as low as –30°C and sometimes even below that. So climbers must wear proper suits and cover their hands, face, and feet with the right climbing gear. Otherwise, the freezing weather will damage their skin and the tissues of their hands, feet, face, ears, and lips.

Besides the freezing temperatures, the weather itself is pretty unexpected. All of a sudden, climbers may face snowstorms and strong winds that may blow them away. Then there is the risk of crossing Khumbu Icefall which is a huge glacier. What makes it dangerous is that it can crack and kill climbers unless they are very very cautious.

Another challenge is imposed by the low air pressure found in high altitudes. This means there is not much oxygen in the air. If the oxygen rate in the blood decreases, climbers would suffer from shortness of breath, blurry vision, insomnia, vomiting, headache, and overall exhaustion. So mountaineers must slow down while climbing to adapt to the lower oxygen levels.

Money-wise, climbing Mount Everest can be pretty expensive as well. First climbers have to buy climbing clothes and supplies and the necessary equipment. This can cost $8000 to $15000. Fully guided journeys cost $40000 to $65000 on average. Add in more money to cover visa and flight tickets to Nepal as well an internal flight from Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, to Lukla which is the town from which climbers start their journeys.

Interestingly, another challenge that usually faces climbers is traffic, not that caused by cars like in cities but rather people traffic. Now, more people head to Mount Everest every year to see the world from above. This is definitely useful for Nepal as tourism flourishes, but it is not fun when you are 5000 m up in the mountain walking very slowly like a penguin stuck in a pack!

The Deepest Ocean on Earth

Every living thing is made of water.

Of the surface of Earth, 71% is covered in water. Only 3% is freshwater which all living beings need for life. The remaining 97% is saltwater completely unsuitable for drinking or growing plants. 

All the water on Earth is classified into different bodies. Some bodies are saltwater such as oceans and seas. The rest are freshwater like rivers, streams, and glaciers. Streams are small rivers. Glaciers are usually found in the north and south poles. They are also freshwater but in the form of ice, huge bodies of ice. Glaciers also move.

Lakes are bodies of water surrounded by land from all directions. Most of the lakes are freshwater. However, there is a number of salt lakes around the world. The largest of them, for instance, is called the Caspian Sea in Iran. Although it is referred to as a sea, it is actually a lake. 

Big saltwater bodies are called oceans. Smaller bodies are called seas. Seas are usually a part of oceans. They are connected to them. At the same time, seas are surrounded by land from other directions.

Take for example the Mediterranean Sea. It is surrounded by countries like France and Italy to the north and Egypt and Algeria to the south. But it is connected to the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar, between Spain and Morocco.

The biggest water body on Earth happens to be the deepest as well. It is the Pacific Ocean. And if Mount Everest is the land Giant, the Pacific Ocean is the water Giant. So let’s learn some interesting facts about it.

The Pacific Ocean

Being much older than Mount Everest, the Pacific Ocean formed 750 million years ago.

Among the five oceans found on the planet, the Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of them all. Alone, it comprises 32% of the surface area of Earth and 46% of all the water on it. That is nearly half the water on Earth with a volume of 710,000,000 cubic kilometers.

The Pacific Ocean is 165,250,000 square kilometers in area. It stretches from the Arctic Ocean in the north to Antarctica in the south. In the west, there are Australia and Asia and in the east there are North and South Americas. Some of the countries that border the Pacific Ocean are Japan, South Korea, Colombia, Singapore, Guatemala, Thailand, and Russia.

Speaking of depth, it changes from one location to another. The average depth of the Pacific Ocean was found to be 4280 meters. However, the deepest point, called the Mariana Trench, is 10,911 meters below the surface of the water. That is pretty hard to imagine but you can be assured that it is tremendously deep.

The Mariana Trench is located in the north west of the ocean, somewhere between Guam and the Philippines.

Inhabitants

Due to its tremendous area, the Pacific Ocean happens to be home to many distinctive inhabitants such as marginal seas, islands, lagoons, atolls, mountains, volcanoes, seamounts, and an incredibly abundant marine life.

First and foremost, marginal seas. These are seas that are connected to the ocean from one side and bordered by land from the other side. There is a large number of marginal seas in the Pacific Ocean, always found near the land. On top of these marginal seas are the sea of Japan and the Chilean sea near the border of South America.

An island is a piece of land surrounded by water from all directions. Such land is actually the ocean floor rising above the surface of the water.

Islands can be of any size. The smallest island in the world is Nauru in the Pacific Ocean which covers a land area of 21 square kilometers. The largest island; however, is outside of the Pacific Ocean. It is Greenland. And it is really huge; around 2,130,800 square kilometers in area.

In the Pacific Ocean alone, there are 25,000 islands. Some of them are countries such as New Zealand and Fiji. Other islands are parts of other countries such as Hawaii.

Besides islands, the Pacific Ocean also has lagoons and atolls. A lagoon is an area of saltwater separated from the sea or ocean by a strip of sand or coral reefs. We can think of lagoons as lakes. The only difference is that a lake is surrounded entirely by land. Yet, lagoons are surrounded by narrow land which in turn is surrounded by seawater.

When the strip around the lagoon is made of coral reefs, it is then called an atoll. There are around 440 atolls in the Pacific Ocean. Atolls can be found where the ocean water is warm, not cold.

Interestingly, the Pacific also has mountains. Well, there are the mountains we are all familiar with, the ones we find above the water and there are underwater mountains called seamounts. Such mountains were originally volcanic but turned into seamounts during eruptions.

The tallest seamount in the Pacific Ocean is in Hawaii. It is called Mauna Kea Volcano. It starts from the ocean floor at a depth of 6000 meters and extends above the water for 4000 meters more. So in total, Mauna Kea is 1000 meters tall. That is even taller than Mount Everest!

On the other hand, the Pacific non-seamount mountains or the Pacific Coastal Ranges are found stretching along the North American Pacific coast, from Canada to the United States. This mountain range is 8850 km long. 

Discovery

In order to discover an unknown body of water, explorers have to move from land and navigate through the water they are familiar with until they reach new water. That is exactly what happened with the Pacific Ocean.

In the sixteenth century, exactly in 1513, Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa was able to cross Panama and reach the North Pacific Ocean. He named it the Sea of the South because the ocean was in the south of Panama where he discovered it for the first time.

But in 1520, another explorer named Ferdinand Magellan but from Portugal this time could cross this newly discovered ocean from the very east to the west. He was trying to reach Spices Island in Indonesia, and he did. Because his expedition mostly sailed in calm water, he called the ocean the Pacific which means peaceful.

However, the ocean was known for centuries as the Sea of Magellan in honor of its explorer.

Maybe Ferdinand Magellan was lucky to sail through the ocean peacefully. However, the Pacific Ocean is not peaceful most of the time. In fact, islands in the ocean often experience strong storms. The ocean is also full of volcanoes that trigger earthquakes and tsunamis. This tells us how powerful the largest and deepest ocean is.

After Ferdinand Magellan explored the Pacific, so many other navigators from countries like Russia, Denmark, France, and Britain started to cross it as well. Some of them even started to colonize islands in it.

Features

Since the Pacific Ocean extends over a large area, it is true to say that the surface water temperature differs from one area to another. Such temperature ranges from –1.4°C in areas near the North Pole to 30°C when getting closer to the equator.

Salty water also varies. For example, water is not that salty near the equator. That is because it always rains there. The freshwater from the rain reduces the amount of salt in seawater.

Although water is transparent, it appears blue in the Pacific Ocean. This is due to how the water reacts with sunlight. To understand this, we need to free some room for a tiny physics fact.

Light consists of seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. This is called the light spectrum. When sunlight hits the ocean surface, seawater absorbs the colors in the red parts of the spectrum and reflects the colors in the blue parts. That is why we see the ocean blue.

Economy

The Pacific Ocean greatly influences the economic systems of the countries and islands that happen to be either in or bordered by it. Many countries’ main source of food is fishing. Other countries extract minerals and fossil fuels such as petroleum and natural gas as well as pearls. 

First, fishing. The Pacific Ocean especially on shallow shorelines is abundant in different types of edible as well as expensive fish such as herring, salmon, sardines, snapper, swordfish, tuna, and shellfish. Providing food already, fish are also important for trade when they are sold to other countries.

Tourism is another sector that the Pacific Ocean influences. Tourists who travel across the globe to relax on the sunny beaches, dive in the clear water, and enjoy the captivating coral reefs provide sources of income that help the economy flourish.

Human Activity

The Pacific Ocean has always been so generous with humans. It provides a way to travel from east to west and vice versa. It has thousands of islands that people can travel to. It is home to the fish which we consume and the fuel we need to run our cars. However, we have just been taking advantage of and badly treating it. 

The Marshall Islands as well as many other ones in the Pacific Ocean have been used as sites for testing nuclear weapons. This lasted for 16 years from 1946 to 1962. Unfortunately, the great heat and radiation from the weapons had devastating consequences on the environment.

Some islands vaporized. They completely disappeared. Other islands were extremely badly affected. People who were exposed to the radiation were poisoned. Many suffered from cancer. Even babies were born defective.

In addition, when radioactive waste is dumped into the ocean, it kills marine animals and strangely changes the nature of the newborn fish. This has been happening since 2011 when the Fukushima power plant exploded in Japan.

Besides nuclear waste and radioactive radiation, humans have been treating the Pacific Ocean as a great trash bin. For a very long time, garbage has been dumped into the ocean. It now covers a large area that is three times the size of France and comprises 80,000 tons of plastic materials floating in the ocean and suffocating turtles and other fish.

On the other hand, many of the countries in or bordered by the Pacific Ocean treat it badly even though they do not test any nuclear weapons. Those countries, unfortunately, threaten the marine life of the ocean by overfishing. They take so many fish out of the ocean at once that there are very few of them left to reproduce.

Overfishing also threatens the life of many other fish too. This usually happens by creating an imbalance in the food web.

Take tuna for example. Sharks and killer whales feed on tuna. Tuna feed on crustaceans and squids. If a country takes so many tuna at once, sharks and whales will not find enough food to eat. This can result in many of them starving. On the other hand, there will not be many tuna left to consume squids. This will cause their numbers to grow dramatically.

Conclusion

The Earth’s giants are extraordinarily unique and awe-inspiring.

Mount Everest and the Pacific Ocean rank first in size, height or depth, and greatness. Ever since they were discovered, both have become of vital importance to the world. Whether people are traveling to summit Everest or relaxing on the golden sands of a Pacific island, they influence tourism and inspire many others to have extraordinary experiences.

In this article, we have discussed some important facts about Mount Everest, when it was discovered, how its height was measured, and who summited it for the first time. Then we learned the process mountaineers go through to start the climbing journey as well as the challenges they have to prepare for. 

Secondly, we discussed Earth’s second giant, the Pacific Ocean. We went through how it was discovered, where it got its name, as well as its various inhabitants of countries, seas, islands, atolls, lagoons, mountains, volcanoes, and seamounts.

Finally, we learned how humans have been mistreating the Pacific Ocean and how this seriously threatens the life of the creatures that live under its surface.

Clouds are an interesting topic for kids. Kids always look at the sky and think of clouds. What are they? What do they look like? What are clouds made of? How are clouds formed? Are there types of clouds? What are those types? Do they have names? How do they affect the weather?

Actually, clouds are associated with many exciting facts. Small droplets of water that gather together are called clouds. Clouds have different types. Each type has special characteristics. They look different and have different shapes.

Clouds affect the weather as well. If we look at the clouds in the sky, we can predict if it is a warm sunny day or there is a storm coming. The colour of clouds also has significance. There are 3 levels of clouds: high clouds, middle clouds, and low-level clouds.

What is the definition of Clouds?

A cloud is a white or grey bunch of fine drops of water or ice high in the earth’s atmosphere. Sometimes clouds look white and puffy. Sometimes they are dark and cover the whole sky. Different types of clouds represent different weather conditions. 

How are Clouds formed?

The air always contains water vapor. The amount of water vapor that air can hold is according to the air’s temperature. When air cools, some of the water vapor condenses or forms visible water droplets. The droplets gather around tiny particles in the air. When billions of these droplets come together they turn into a visible cloud.

White Clouds vs Grey Clouds

Clouds are white since they reflect light from the sun. When clouds are so filled with water that they don’t reflect light anymore. In this condition, they are grey clouds.  Also, when there are many other clouds around, their shadow add to the grey or multi-colored grey appearance.

What are the Types of Clouds?

Clouds are often characterized by the level or elevation where they form. There are high, middle, and low-level clouds. Scientists combine cloud characteristics and levels to categorize the ten main cloud types as follows:

  • High cloud: cirrus, cirrocumulus, cirrostratus
  • Middle cloud: altostratus, altocumulus, nimbostratus
  • Low cloud: stratus, stratocumulus
  • Vertical: cumulus, cumulonimbus

High Clouds

Cirrus Clouds

Cirrus clouds are the most common of the high clouds. They are above 18,000 feet. They are thin clouds formed of ice crystals that are made very high in the sky. They are considered the highest clouds and the temperature at such a height is about 36 degrees. 

Cirrus clouds are usually white and refer to nice weather. When you see cirrus clouds, it usually indicates that a change in the weather will happen within 24 hours. Where these clouds are made, the wind blows between 100 and 150 miles per hour.

Cirrus Clouds

Cirrocumulus Clouds

Cirrocumulus clouds are high clouds that are similar to tiny cotton balls bunched together. They look like small, rounded white puffs that come in long rows. Cirrocumulus clouds usually appear in the winter and represent fair, but cold weather. In tropical regions, they may indicate a coming hurricane.

Cirrostratus Clouds

They are thin, sheet-like high clouds that often cover the entire sky like a veil, making it appear overcast. These clouds signal that it may rain in the next day or so. They are so thin that the sun and moon can be seen through them. These clouds are most commonly seen in winter. 

Middle Clouds

Altostratus Clouds

Altostratus clouds are grey or blue-grey mid-level clouds. They are made of ice crystals and water droplets. They are composed in the middle of the sky, between 6,500 and 20,000 feet high. If there are altostratus clouds, the sun is not very visible. Generally, they are a symbol of continuous rain or snow.

Altocumulus Clouds

Altocumulus clouds are mid-level clouds that are composed of water droplets and look like grey, puffy masses. They are lower than cirrus clouds, but still generally high. They are composed of liquid water, but they don’t often cause rain. If you see altocumulus clouds on a warm, sticky morning, they usually shape in groups.

Nimbostratus Clouds

Nimbostratus clouds are dark, grey clouds that appear to fade into falling rain or snow. They are so thick that they often stop the sunlight. They often make precipitation that is usually light to moderate. They can float as low as 2,000 meters above the ground, which is pretty low for a cloud.

Low Clouds

Stratus Clouds

Stratus clouds often look like slim, white sheets covering the entire sky. Since they are so slim, they rarely cause much rain or snow. Sometimes, in the mountains or hills, these clouds look like fog. Light mist or drizzle sometimes drops out of these clouds. 

Stratocumulus Clouds

Stratocumulus clouds are patchy grey or white clouds that often appear like a dark honeycomb. They can be seen between 2,000-6,500 feet above the Earth’s surface. Most of these clouds form in rows with blue sky appearing in between them. Rain seldom happens with stratocumulus clouds. However, they can change into nimbostratus clouds.

Vertical Clouds

Cumulus Clouds

Cumulus clouds appear as fluffy, white cotton balls in the sky. They are beautiful in sunsets, and their different sizes and shapes can make them fun to see. These clouds usually form if the weather is nice and it will be a nice day to play outside. These clouds grow upward and they can turn into huge cumulonimbus clouds, which are thunderstorm clouds. 

Cumulonimbus Clouds

Cumulonimbus clouds form on hot days if warm, wet air rises very high into the sky. They are huge, tall clouds that are dark on the bottom. From far away, they appear as huge mountains or towers. They are connected to heavy rain, snow, hail, lightning and even tornadoes. 

Most clouds can be divided into 3 groups: high clouds, middle clouds, and low clouds. This is according to the height of the cloud’s base above the Earth’s surface. Other clouds are grouped according to their unique characteristics like forming alongside mountains (Lenticular clouds) or forming beneath existing clouds (Mammatus clouds).

Lenticular Clouds

They are lens-shaped orographic wave clouds that are made when the air is stable and winds blow across hills and mountains from the same or similar direction at varying heights through the troposphere. They are curved layers, such as flying saucers.

If stable moist air rises over a mountain or a range of mountains, a series of large-scale standing waves can be composed on the downwind side. Lenticular clouds are sometimes composed at the crests of these waves. On the ground, they can cause very strong gusty winds in one place, while air is only a few hundred meters away.

Kelvin-Helmholtz Clouds

They appear as breaking waves in the ocean. After the wind blows up and over a barrier, such as a mountain, the air continues flowing through the atmosphere in a wavelike pattern. These clouds are generally seen near sunrise or sunset. They also appear if the bottom of the clouds is cooler and the air above is warmer.

Complex evaporation and condensation patterns produce the capped tops and cloudless troughs of the waves. These clouds are composed if there is a variance in the wind speed or direction between two wind currents in the atmosphere.

Mammatus clouds

Mammatus clouds are low hanging bulges that fall from cumulonimbus clouds. Mammatus clouds are usually connected to severe weather. They produce very strong storms.  These clouds are usually composed during warm months and are formed by descending air in the cloud. They are sometimes described as appearing as a field of tennis balls or melons.

Contrail Clouds

Contrail clouds are a trail of condensed vapor produced when a Jet aircraft flies at high altitudes. The mixture of hot exhaust gases from the engines with cold outside air produces ice crystals to form on particles in the exhaust.

A contrail evaporates quickly if the relative humidity of the surrounding air is low. When the humidity is high, a contrail may stay seen as cirrus-like clouds for many hours.

Cloud Activities

Let’s check some activities for kids to see clouds:

In this activity, kids see clouds form if they breathe on spoons. When warm, moist breath touches the cool spoon, water vapor condenses and changes into a cloud–or water you can see.

Types of Clouds activity – Describe and give examples of the four types of clouds – cirrus, cumulus, stratus and nimbus. you need crayons and cotton balls to make each one!

Conclusion

A cloud is a huge collection of very small droplets of water or ice crystals. The droplets are so tiny and not heavy that they can float in the air. Clouds are often described according to the level or elevation where they form. They are categorized as high, middle, and low-level clouds. They have an important role in controlling Earth’s climate. 

Hurricane

Kids usually get curious about hurricanes. They usually have many questions about them. What are hurricanes? How do they form? What are the most famous hurricanes? Where can hurricanes be found? What is the biggest hurricane?

Many articles and videos introduce really useful information about hurricanes for kids. One of the most interesting ways for kids to be taught about hurricanes is through activities. When they make projects about hurricanes, they understand them better.

A hurricane is a kind of a giant storm that results in heavy rainfalls. There are some reasons why hurricanes form. Some changes happen during hurricanes. Hurricanes have damaging effects. In this article, we introduce almost all the information about hurricanes.

What is a Hurricane?

A hurricane is a huge rotating storm with strong winds at speeds of 75 to 200 mph that forms over warm waters in tropical areas. They usually form in the sea. The word hurricane goes back to “Huracan,” the name of a Mayan god. It is the god of big winds and evil spirits.

Hurricane season starts from the beginning of June till the end of November. Mid-September is considered the peak of the hurricane season. Coastal zones are most prone to the dangers of hurricanes. In addition to this, each hurricane lasts for over a week.

Hurricanes have different names according to their locations. In North America and the Caribbean, hurricanes are called hurricanes. In the Indian Ocean, hurricanes are given the name cyclones. They are given the name typhoons in Southeast Asia. 

How do Hurricanes form?

Hurricanes form over the warm ocean water of the tropics when the warm moist air over water starts to rise. The moist warm water is replaced by cooler water which in return starts to rise. This cycle results in huge storm clouds that start to rotate. These huge storm clouds, along with wind speeds, form a hurricane.

What are the Parts of Hurricanes?

There are five parts of hurricanes:

  • Eye: it is at the center of the hurricane. It is an area of descending air. There are not usually any clouds in the eye and the wind there is calm. However, the most dangerous part of the storm is at the edge of the eye which is called the eyewall.
  •  Eyewall: it is around the outside of the eye. It is a wall formed of very heavy clouds. This is considered the most fatal part of the hurricane and where the highest speed winds are. The winds at the eyewall can get to speeds of 155 miles per hour. 
  • Rainbands: hurricanes contain large spiral bands of rain called rainbands. These bands can throw down huge amounts of rainfall causing flooding when the hurricane crashes land. 
  • Diameter: hurricanes can turn into huge storms. The diameter of the hurricane is calculated from one side to the other. Hurricanes can measure a diameter of over 600 miles. 
  • Height: the storm clouds that give hurricanes power can become very tall. A powerful hurricane can go up to nine miles into the atmosphere.

What are the Stages of Hurricane?

A hurricane has 6 stages as follows:

  • Disturbance Formation
  • Tropical Disturbance
  • Tropical Depression
  • Tropical Storm
  • Hurricane
  • Dissipation

Disturbance Formation

The first stage of a hurricane starts with disturbance formation. Hurricanes are made of a mixture of many factors. A hurricane starts to form due to the evaporation that happens over tropical ocean waters. 

Once it starts to evaporate, a cloud of warm air begins to shape, heating the air around it and forming even more densely packed clouds as air rushes in. As the air still heats up, a large mass of warm rain clouds is formed over the ocean.

Tropical Disturbance

In the second stage, the tropical disturbance is made of loosely packed rain clouds creating thunderstorms. The wind circulation is light, with minimal chances to cause any amount of damage. If this storm system can maintain its structure for more than 24 hours, it is considered a tropical disturbance.

Tropical Depression

A tropical disturbance will change to a tropical depression when it has wind speeds of anywhere between 23 mph to 38 mph. Once winds turn to be more organized, they start to circulate in the center of the storm. 

A tropical depression will start to form into a more significant storm. However, at this stage, it doesn’t have the power to move on to the next step and it still lacks the true form.

Tropical Storm

Before the hurricane formation, a tropical storm is formed first as the tropical depression grows increasingly stronger. The wind speeds at this stage jump from 39 mph to around 73 mph. 

Tropical storms are similar to smaller forms of hurricanes and aren’t as threatening. But a tropical cyclone is nothing to pass over, though. Tropical storms can still result in heavy rains that can cause severe flooding wherever they make landfall.

Hurricanes

If the tropical storm is forming at wind speeds that go up to at least 74 mph, it is clearly a hurricane. It takes the real final form of a hurricane as its eye forms completely.

Hurricanes are categorized according to their wind speeds. They include:

  • Category 1 Hurricane: Wind speed ranges from 74 miles per hour to 95 miles per hour.
  • Category 2 Hurricane: Wind speed ranges from  96 miles per hour to 110 miles per hour.
  • Category 3 Hurricane: Wind speed ranges from 111 miles per hour to 129 miles per hour.
  • Category 4 Hurricane: Wind speed ranges from 130 miles per hour to 156 miles per hour.
  • Category 5 Hurricane: Wind speed ranges from over 157 miles per hour.

Dissipation

As hurricanes continue to flow over warm tropical waters, they’ll continue to gather power and speed. Once they make landfall, they stop gathering power because they no longer have warm water to depend on to power themselves. 

So during landfall, they turn to be less and less organized as wind speeds fall dramatically. Finally, the hurricane will start to be divided into thunderstorms, before breaking down completely. While the hurricane floats over land, its high-speed winds and heavy rains result in massive damage, probably levelling entire towns in the process.

What are the types of Cyclones?

A cyclone represents a weather system marked by circling winds around a low-pressure center. The wind direction around the center is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, while in the Southern Hemisphere the wind direction is clockwise.

Coming in a large variety of sizes and settings, cyclones cause some of the most dramatic and complete violent weather on the planet, including the tropical cyclones known as hurricanes and typhoons. The science behind cyclones helps you realize where and why this weather phenomenon exists.

Tropical Cyclone

A tropical cyclone is defined by The National Weather Service as “a rotating system of clouds and thunderstorms that originated over tropical or sub-tropical areas.”

The significant tropical-cyclone basins include the North Atlantic (including the Caribbean), North Indian Ocean, Southwest Indian Ocean, Eastern Pacific, Western Pacific, Southern Pacific and Australian region. 

Exactly tropical cyclones grow within 5 and 30 degrees of latitude, as they need ocean waters of around 80 degrees Fahrenheit to form. Winds funnel into a low-pressure disturbance, evaporating warm surface waters and unleashing energy as rising air condenses into clouds.

Hurricanes, Cyclone, Typhoons and Tornadoes

The terminology connected to tropical cyclones can be confusing because people call these violent storms by different names in different parts of the world. In the North Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the northeastern Pacific too, people call them “hurricanes”.

In the Northwest Pacific, “a typhoon”  is the most active tropical-cyclone basin in the world. While in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific, people call them “tropical cyclones” or “cyclones”. Tornadoes are called “cyclones,” yet they’re completely different storms.

Mesocyclones: Tornado Factories

Supercell thunderstorms are the name given to especially strong thunderstorms that display circling updrafts called mesocyclones. Rotating “wall clouds” may fall from mesocyclones and ultimately form a funnel cloud. 

If a funnel cloud touches the ground, it turns into a tornado. The United States underwent approximately 1,700 mesocyclones in a year, with about 50 percent of these turning into tornadoes.

Midlatitude or Extratropical Cyclones

Hurricanes and typhoons may be popular to laypeople, but the cyclonic storms that grow along frontal boundaries in the middle latitudes are just as significant.

These cyclones, which grow where sharp temperature gradients exist between adjoining air masses, can be much larger than hurricanes, though their winds are generally weaker. A remarkable example of a midlatitude cyclone is the “nor’easter” that often affects the U.S. East Coast, particularly in winter.

Polar Lows, aka “Arctic Hurricanes”

Hurricanes frequently form over Arctic and Antarctic seas, sparked by freezing air moving over somewhat warmer ocean waters. In the Northern Hemisphere, scientists sometimes call polar lows “Arctic hurricanes,” because both their power source as well as their circling cloud bands are somewhat similar to a tropical cyclone. Polar lows often form quickly, sometimes in less than 24 hours, and it is not easy to forecast.

How Do Scientists Forecast Hurricanes?

Scientists can guess when hurricanes may happen depending on the complicated tools available. However, it is not guaranteed that the timing is accurate. Hurricane predictions can be divided into two categories: seasonal probabilities and the track of a current hurricane.

Scientists can’t give exact dates and times for hurricanes. However, they calculate the wind speed and the past occurrences of hurricanes to forecast possible hurricanes to form. 

Scientists can track the path of a hurricane once it is formed using a lot of models. They can also forecast the intensity of the hurricane which is very important to give people chances to prepare for the hurricane. However, forecasting isn’t accurate enough.

Hurricanes in History

Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey was classified as a Category 4 storm that hit Texas on August 25, 2017. Harvey hit three times in six days and its peak was on September 1, 2017. The storm passed through the Caribbean and Mexico.

Harvey was classified as the strongest hurricane to hit Texas since Hurricane Carla in 1961. The hurricane was violent with maximum sustained winds of at least 130 mph. Let’s have a look at the damage caused by Harvey:

  • Two feet of rain dropped in the first 24 hours.
  • 39,000 people were forced out of their homes and into shelters because of flooding.
  • It resulted in damaging 204,000 homes.
  • Right after the storm, at least 3,900 homes were still without power.
  • 19 water systems were down as a result of the flood.
  •  75 of the 275 schools of Houston Independent School District were closed due to flood damage.
  • one million vehicles were ruined in the Gulf area.
  • It caused 25 per cent of oil and gas production to shut down in the region.
  • U.S. average gas prices rose to $2.49 a gallon after the hurricane.
  • Between 25 and 30 per cent of Harris County was flooded.
  • Damage from Harvey was about $125 billion.
  • The storm caused 100 people in Texas alone to death.
  • Harvey is rated as the second-most costly hurricane to hit the U.S. since 1990.

Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian was a tropical cyclone that occurred in 2019. It is considered a category 5 storm. It was one of the most violent Atlantic hurricanes to make landfall. Winds reached  220 mph and storm surges reached 23 feet. Let’s check the damages caused by hurricane Dorian:

  • More than 2 million people along the coasts of Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina have to leave their homes. 
  • Dorian resulted in about $3.4 billion in damage.
  • 74 people lost their lives and 245 people were still missing a year later.
  • It resulted in flooding and mass destruction on the northwest islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.
  • 29,500 people don’t have homes or jobs.
  • The Grand Bahama International Airport, as an example for the damage of the infrastructure, was affected. 

Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence hit near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, on September. 14, 2018. The wind reached 90+ mph winds. It was a violent and long-lived hurricane. The following are some damages caused by Florence:

  • More than 40 people, including many children, lost their lives across three Southeastern states.
  • Nearly 2 million people had to leave their homes.
  • Thousands of people were left without power.
  • It was the ninth most destructive storm for property damage in U.S. history.
  • 15 people were killed because of flooding.
  • Florence caused house fires, electrocutions and traffic accidents.
  • Florence caused damage that was estimated at $24 billion.
  • North Carolina had the largest portion of the damage, with an estimated $22 billion in damage.
  • In South Carolina, the estimated damage was $2 billion and $200 million in Virginia.
  •  In Georgia, the damage reached $30 million.
  • The rainfall exceeded 20 inches in some regions.
  • Florence was the reason for damaging thousands of structures, like toxic animal waste containment sites. This resulted in bacteria and hazardous chemicals being sent into the water.

Hurricane Andrew

Hurricane Andrew is considered a category 5 hurricane. It affected the Bahamas and the United States of America on the 16th of August, 1992. The highest sustained winds reached 175 mph. Here are some of the damages caused by Andrew:

  • The damage caused by Andrew was estimated at $27.3 billion.
  • 65 people were killed because of the hurricane.
  • About 1.4 a million people were left without power
  • The U.S. State of Florida, in Dade County, had the largest loss of life.
  • In Florida, 25% of trees were pulled down by the storm.
  • The storm was the reason behind the killing of 182 million fish in the basin.
  • In Louisiana, the hurricane pulled down 80% of the trees.
  • In Louisiana, the storm killed 9.4 million fish.
  • In Louisiana, about 6,200 people moved to 36 shelters.

Hurricane Camille

Hurricane Camille was a category 5 hurricane that hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast region on the 17th and 18th of August 1969. The average sustained winds reached 210 mph. It is classified as the 2nd most intense hurricane to strike the continental US. Let’s check some of the damages caused by Camille:

  • 143 people were killed along with Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
  • 113 additional people were killed due to flash floods and landslides.
  •  5,662 homes were ruined and 13,915 homes experienced huge damage.
  • The total cost of damage was estimated at US$1.42 billion.
  • A huge number of cattle, deer, fish, and alligators drowned because of flooding.

Hurricane Irma

It is classified as category 5 that hit Florida on Sept. 10, 2017. The highest sustained wind reached 180 mph. It was the most violent hurricane to strike the United States since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Let’s check some of the damages caused by the hurricane:

  • The total loss was estimated at $77.16 billion. 
  • At least 134 people were killed because of the hurricane.
  • Coastal areas were evacuated, with around 6 million Florida residents.
  • In Florida, more than 7.5 million homes became without electricity.
  • In Carolina, 100,000 homes were left without power and five died because of storm-related issues.
  • In Cuba, about 150,000 homes were ruined.

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina was the most violent hurricane to hit the United States in August 2005. Katrina where Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi were the most affected states by the hurricane. It is classified as a category 5 hurricane. Let’s have a look at some of the damages caused by Katrina:

  • At least 1800 people were killed because of Hurricane Katrina.
  • 80% of the city of New Orleans flooded to a maximum depth of 20 feet.
  • Around three million people were left without power because of the storm.
  • The total damage was estimated at $125 billion in 2005.
  • 40% of all the deaths in Louisiana were because of drowning.
  • Between 300,000 to 350,000 vehicles were also damaged, as well as 2,400 ships and vessels.

Hurricane Mathew

It is classified as a category 5 hurricane. Mathew hit Haiti Cube on October 4, 2016, in the evening. The highest sustained wind reached 160 mph. Let’s check some of the damages caused by Mathew:

  • 546 deaths were estimated because of the hurricane.
  • The total loss was estimated at $10 billion.
  • Matthew was the most awful disaster to hit Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.
  • The most general effects of the storm in the U.S were flooding and power outages.
  • In Haiti, damage was estimated at just over $1 billion.

Hurricane Michael

It is classified as a category 4 hurricane. It hit near Mexico Beach on Oct. 10, 2018. The wind speed was 160 mph. Scientists stated that, in recorded history,  Hurricane Michael was the first category 4 storm to make landfall in the northeast Gulf Coast. Let’s check some of the damages caused by Michael:

  • 35 people were killed because of the hurricane.
  • Initial property damage was estimated at $4.5 billion.
  • Florida’s forestland damage was estimated at $3 billion.
  • About 375,000 people were evacuated from their homes.
  • In Cuba, about 70% of the offshore went without power. 
  • Most of the city’s TV and radio stations stopped working because of the hurricane.

Hurricane Ophelia

It was one of the strongest Atlantic tropical cyclones. It hit Ireland in October 2017. It is classified as a category 3 storm. It is ranked as the tenth consecutive hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean. Let’s check some of the damages caused by Ophelia:

  • The estimated damage caused by the storm was more than $70 million USD.
  • More than 385,000 homes went without power.
  • The country was shut down for 2 days.
  • Three people in Ireland were killed because of the hurricane.
  • 43% of the people In Dublin said their property was damaged.

Hurricane Tomas

Hurricane Tomas began to hit the Caribbean islands on Friday October 29, 2010. The highest sustained winds reached 100 mph. 10 countries in the region were affected by the hurricane. Let’s check some of the damages caused by Tomas:

  • 15 people were killed on the island because of the hurricane.
  • Roads and infrastructure were destroyed.
  • Bridges and roads were completely damaged.
  • The estimate of the total loss was about $652 million.

What is the Difference between a Hurricane and a Tornado?

Both hurricanes and Tornadoes are natural phenomena. They are fatal and cause a lot of damage. They cause strong sustained winds. Let’s have a look at some of the differences between hurricanes and tornadoes:

HurricanesTornadoes
It occurs in the warm water tropicsIt occurs on land
It can be up to hundreds of miles wideIt is usually less than a quarter-mile wide
The highest sustained winds can reach 100 mphThe wind can reach 300 mph
Around 10 tropical storms can occur in a year in the Atlantic OceanFrom 800 to 1000 tornadoes in a year in the U.S.A
It can be predicted several days aheadIt can be predicted 15:30 minutes ahead
The greatest damages are caused by floodsThe greatest damages are caused by winds
It is huge but slowIt is not predictable but fast
It occurs in warm areasIt occurs anywhere
Diameter ranges from 60 to 1300 milesDiameter is about 100 meters

Some Safety Precautions during Hurricanes

  • Explain to the kids what’s expected during hurricanes.
  • Get ready with the emergency bag that includes flashlight, blanket, medical aid, and any other personal stuff.
  • Plan for the evacuation process.
  • Practice the evacuation plan.
  • In case no evacuation is needed, stay indoors.
  • Buy all the necessary outdoor objects.
  • Buy enough food and water.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Move to a shelter if needed.
  • Be careful of flooding that can occur after hurricanes.
  • Don’t drive in flooding water.
  • Don’t drink tap water unless it is officially allowed.
  • Always be updated with the weather reports.
  • Cover any glass area and windows with boards.

Some Hurricane Survival Stories

  • Story of Carol Park: The story goes back to September of 1961 in the Gulf of Mexico when Carol was only 10. She witnessed Hurricane Carla which is a category 5 hurricane. She was playing outdoors and her family didn’t take any precautions. There were heavy rains and violent winds. She still remembers the mixed feeling of fear and excitement.
  • Story of RJ Cywinski: He was 11 years old. His family had to evacuate their home. They left for a shelter with their pets. They found a lot of people there as well. He felt terrified while they were driving to the shelter as if the storm was following them.
  • Story of Bill: Bill witnessed hurricane Sandy in November 2012 in New York. He and his family were under the impression that they got ready for the hurricane. They prepared the emergency bag and all the needed supplies. However, the hurricane was much stronger than expected. Trees bent down and the power went down as well. Roads were blocked by the falling trees so there was nowhere to go. They had to stay at home away from the windows until the hurricane passed. 
  • Story of Christina: She witnessed 3 major hurricanes in the area of Virginia in 2003, 2011, and 2018. During the first hurricane, power went off for 13 days. They didn’t have access to gas or ice. During the 2nd hurricane again power went off for 7 days. The wind was terrifying. The third experience, power went off for 5 days. Some roads were blocked.

Interesting Projects for Kids to Make a Hurricane

It is exciting for kids to design a project that represents hurricane formation. Here are two projects that kids can do by themselves.

Project One

Supplies needed:

  • A bowl of water
  • Water
  • Food colouring

Steps:

  1. Bring a bowl of water
  2. Spin the water
  3. Pour water into the bowel
  4. Add food coloring
  5. Now watch the bands spin-out from the center then lose energy

Project Two

Supplies needed:

  • A bottle of water
  • Hair conditioner
  • Glitter

Steps:

  1. Get a bottle of water
  2. Add hair conditioner to the water bottle
  3. Add the glitter
  4. Spin the bottle
  5. Now you can watch the hurricane

List of Books About Hurricanes for Kids

  • Jumbie God’s Revenge by Tracey Baptiste
  • Carrie and the Great Storm by Jessica Gunderson & illustrated by Matt Forsyth
  • The Magic School Bus Inside A Hurricane by Joanna Cole & illustrated by Bruce Degen
  • Skylark and Wallcreeper by Anne O’Brien Carelli
  • I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005
  • Hurricane Heroes in Texas 
  • Let’s Read and Find Out scientific series
  • Hurricane Lesson Resources and Activities
  • The Magic School Bus
  • Hurricanes! (New Edition) Written & illustrated by Gail Gibbons
  • Miss Twiggley’s Tree Written & illustrated by Dorothea Warren Fox
  • Storm Runners
  • Hurricane Child
  • Scout Storm Dog

Conclusion

To recap, hurricanes are considered natural disasters. They are divided into categories depending on how violent they are. There are 6 stages for hurricanes. They cause mass destruction. There are a lot of hurricanes that hit many countries. 

As well, many writers wrote books only about hurricanes for kids and adults too. There are many activities and projects for hurricanes that kids can do. A lot of people spoke and even wrote about their experiences during hurricanes and how they survived.

If we talk about the weather, we should talk about the sky and the air outside how they look. We see and feel the weather around us every day. When you ask about the weather, you can get various answers depending on what time it is and which season we are in.

The Weather Around Us
The Weather Around Us

Weather is the state of the air and atmosphere at a particular place and time. Weather can change from place to place, from season to season, from day tonight. The weather is something that we experience and feel every day, so it is very important to understand it at an early age. 

Explaining the weather for kids can be a fun and dynamic experience. You can find a variety of content everywhere to explain what weather is for all ages. The weather includes sun, rain, snow, and wind. Weather occurs as the Earth is heated unevenly by the sun. That means these temperature changes that occur winds to form, which blow hot or cold air. The wind is also responsible for causing the formation of clouds through precipitation and storms.

There are Four Types of Weather

Sunny

When the weather is sunny, that means that the sky is full of sun. The sun’s energy affects the air pressure and the temperature. Sun gives us the power to do our activities. 

Sunny

The plants need sunlight to grow. Plants make their food by sunlight, this process is “called photosynthesis”. When the sun is up and shining, most of the animals and reptiles come out to raise their body temperatures and become active. Sunny days are not always hot. Sometimes, they can be cool depending on which season we are in.

Cloudy

Cloudy

Clouds are a huge mass of water vapor. Clouds make a barrier between the sun and us. When there are clouds in the sky, the sun isn’t able to shine and keep the environment warm. It can be warm on a cloudy day when the clouds trap heat near the surface. Clouds are often connected with rain, when we see the sky full of clouds we think of rain. 

Windy

The wind is the air that moves from one place where there is high pressure to another place where there is low pressure, which means when air is under pressure, it starts to move.

Windy

What is the Meaning of “Under Pressure”?

Imagine you are blowing up a balloon, as you blow the air inside the balloon, the balloon blows but when the pressure increases it can pop.

The wind blows when air is pushed into smaller spaces of areas. When the weather is stormy, there is a strong wind and heavy rain.

Rainy

Rain is water droplets that fall from the cloud. When the water droplets from the clouds became too heavy, they fall to the ground. When it’s raining the streets become wet and we find fresh air around us. When the air temperature gets near freezing or below, the snowfalls. All things around you become white. It might be hail, hail is formed when the water freezes. That time you can find ice balls around you. 

Rainy

The Four Seasons

The weather changes from season to season. We have four seasons in the year: Spring, Summer, Winter, and Autumn. Let’s see what is the difference between the four seasons: 

Spring

Spring is famous for its warm weather. Spring sits between Winter and Summer. Spring is celebrated with festivals in many cultures. In Spring plants, trees, and flowers grow, bud and bloom. Trees start to sprout new leaves. Animals are also affected too, they come out of their winter hibernation and begin their nesting and reproducing activities.

Summer

Summer is the hottest of the four seasons, coming after spring and before Autumn. High humidity during the Summer is called a heatwave. There are many things to do in Summer like going to the beach, exercising, eating ice cream. Most people love to do activities in Summer. The night is shorter in Summer.

Autumn

Autumn, is also known as Fall. Its temperature transitions between Summer heat and Winter cold. Autumn sits between Summer and Winter. The leaves fall from the trees at that time, so it is also called fall. 

Do you know that animals collect their food in Autumn in preparation for the coming Winter??? 

In Winter day and night are equals.

Winter

Winter is the coldest season of the year. Winter is the season, which comes between Autumn and Spring. The word Winter comes from an old Germanic word that means the time of water. The weather is very cold and sometimes it rains and snows. The animals start hibernation. Trees and plants stop growing. Nights are longer in winter.

Tsunamis

What’s a Tsunami? 

A tsunami is an enormous wave, which is caused by an underwater earthquake and/or a volcanic explosion. Sometimes the waves reach heights of over 100 feet (30.5 meters). Most tsunamis about 80 percent happen in the Pacific Ocean. Because of such large waves, some people can’t compare tsunamis to tidal waves.

Tsunami

When we hear about Tsunami, we are in a great panic. It is important to know the signs of a Tsunami as it is considered a natural disaster. This is a common mistake due to the large nature of the wave itself, but there are nuanced differences that separate the two from each other. 

For example, Tidal waves are occurs by the moon, sun, or planet tides. This occurs the wind moves over the water with typical waves. The major difference is the water flow. As waves of tsunamis flow straight, they became more damaging and worrying.

Do you know that the word tsunami originates from a Japanese word, which means “A great harbor wave? 

Earthquakes

What are Earthquakes?

Earthquakes are sudden shakes of the ground caused by the crossing of seismic waves through Earth’s rocks. When some form of energy is stored in Earth’s crust, seismic waves are suddenly released. About 50,000 earthquakes occur annually in different countries. The size of the earthquake indicates the damage that will happen. 

Earthquake

The Size of Earthquakes

  • When the earthquake magnitudes start from 2.5 to 5.4, you often feel it and it only causes little damage.
  • When the earthquake magnitudes start from 5.5 to 6.0, it causes slight damage to buildings and other structures.
  • When the earthquake magnitudes start from 6.1 to 6.9, it causes a lot of damage in very populated areas.
  • When the earthquake magnitudes start from 7.0 to 7.9, it causes serious damage.

How do we Measure Earthquakes?

The instruments, which we are used to calculate earthquakes are known as seismographs. 

What are Seismographs’ Jobs?

Seismograph

Seismographs are used to monitor the seismic waves, which travel through the Earth after an earthquake begin.

Do you know how Seismographs calculate information about earthquakes? 

Modern seismometers have three elements to determine simultaneous movement. They are settled in a very solid position. Each direction of movement gives accurate information about the earthquake. 

The Three Directions are: 

1-Up-down. 

2-North-south. 

3-East-west. 

The instrument is made up of:

1- A-weighted pin.

2- Spring.

When earthquakes begin, these tools can record the vibrations from the earthquake. They make lines from the pen onto paper creating a record of the earthquake. This record is known as a seismogram.  

It is considered an effective way of discovering the size of the earthquake. So If the earthquake is small, the pen will make a short, wiggly line. And if it’s a big earthquake, it will be a long wiggly line. From here we know the accuracy magnitude of earthquakes.

Thunder and Lightning

What are Thunder and Lightning?

Thunder is a loud rumbling noise heard, it’s the sound that comes from lighting. Lightning is a discharge of electricity. A single shot of lightning can heat the air around it to 30,000°C. The lightning quickly heated the air.

Thunder and Lightning

Intense heating causes the hot air, the hot air quickly expands into cooler air around it, which makes a shock wave so we hear thunder. Lightning does not always create thunder. Lightning is the most effective element of a thunderstorm.

History of Lightning

Lightning is considered one of the oldest observed natural phenomena on earth. Ancient people mostly always believed in nature gods. Some ancient people believed that God was responsible for lightning, others believed that angry gods threw lightning bolts from the heavens. 

Do you know that the Early Greeks believed that lightning was a weapon of Zeus? So in the past, no one knew the fact of lightning. By the 1700s scientists proved that lightning is a bright flash of electricity produced by a thunderstorm.

Lightning For Kids
Lightning

Lightning

is a huge, bright flash of electricity in the atmosphere that happens between the clouds, the air, or the ground. Ice particles and water droplets, which are inside a cloud carry electrical charges, some are positive and others are negative. Air is considered as a barrier between the positive and negative charges in the cloud and between the cloud and the ground.

Lighting usually happens when the opposite charges build up enough in the clouds. To equalize these opposite charges, the positive charges form under the cloud on the ground. The sparkle flash of lightning very fast equalizes the negative and positive charges in the atmosphere until the opposite charges are set up again.

When the electricity from the lightning heats the gases in the air, the gases expand and make a loud noise. The loud noise, which follows lightning is called thunder.

All lightning that is produced from thunderstorms is very dangerous. So if you hear the booming sound of thunder, then you may be in danger. Not all lightning is dangerous. 

Do you know that….!!!
  • Lightning hits the ground 25 million times a year which means about 50 to 100 lightning bolts may strike the Earth every second. 
  • A lightning flash has enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for about 3 months. 
  • Lightning is approximately six times hotter than the surface of the sun!

Lightning Color

Lightning is always bright in white color, but often it’s tinged with another color around the edges. Lightning may come in different colors of the rainbow “Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue, and Violet”. Lighting color depends on conditions in the clouds and in the air.

The color of a lightning stroke depends on how hot it is and what is in the clouds and in the air. Lightning color starts with red and ends with violet, which is considered the hottest. Let’s see:

  • Yellow or Orange lightning: point out that there is a large concentration of dust in the air.
  • Blue lightning: inside a cloud, points out the presence of hail.
  • Red lightning: inside a cloud, points out the presence of rain.
  • White lightning: indicates that the air has a little amount of moisture “humidity”.

What are Cloud Flashes?

Cloud flashes are lightning that occurs inside the cloud which travels from one part of a cloud to another, or from the cloud to the air.

Thunder

is mainly caused by lightning. When a lightning blot travels from the cloud to the ground it makes a little hole in the air called a channel. At the moment when the light is gone, the air breaks down again and occurs a booming sound of thunder.

Do you know why we see lightning before we hear thunder??????

That’s because light travels faster than sound.

Lightning Blot

What is a “stepped leader”?

A stepped leader is negatively charged particles that come from the cloud, it moves in many directions trying to find the path of least resistance. Stepped leader speed reached two hundred thousand “200,000” miles per hour.

There are several types of lightning. You can identify the type by what is at the flash channel start and end. Here are some of the lightning types:
Cloud-to-Ground Lightning (CG) 

All of you kids think that Cloud-to-ground lightning comes from the sky, but in fact, it comes from the ground up. It is a channel of a negative charge that is called a stepped leader. It takes the zigzag or forked pattern, so it is sometimes called forked lightning. The stepped leader is not easy to see by eye, it is so fast and travels to the ground in a millisecond. 

When the negative charge of the stepped leader became near the ground it attracts a channel of positive charge “steamer”. It starts moving upward from the ground tries to find tall objects such as a tree, house, or telephone pole. When the charges of leader and streamer connect, a powerful electrical current begins to flow.

Cloud-to-Air Lightning (CA)

Cloud to air lightning occurs when negatively charged air particles are attracted to positive charges inside the cloud. Cloud-to-Ground lightning contains Cloud-to-Air lightning through the branches, which reach the main channel into the mid-air. 

The flashes of Clouds sometimes have visible channels which reached out into the air around the storm but do not strike the ground.

Ground-to-Cloud Lightning (GC) 

It is an invisible channel of electrically charged air moving from the cloud directly to the ground. Its strikes sometimes called upward-moving lightning, they are common on tall structures such as towers and skyscrapers.

How does the Visible Lightning Strike produce?

When a separate channel closes an object on the ground, a powerful wave of electricity from the ground moves upward to the clouds and produces that visible lightning strike.

Do you know that the ground is mainly made up of positively charged particles, and storm clouds have negatively charged particles? Negatively charged in Ground-to-Cloud Lightning follow positively charged particles.

The polarity of the Ground-to-Cloud Lightning can be either positive or negative. Ground to cloud lightning and cloud to ground lightning are nearly the same. The name depends on the flash itself.

Cloud-to-Cloud Lightning (CC) or Intercloud Lightning

Cloud to cloud (CC) or intercloud lightning happens between two clouds, one carries a positive and the other carries a negative charge. These obviously do not strike the ground so they just travel from cloud to cloud.

Intracloud Lightning (IC)

Intracloud lightning is often called “sheet lightning that’s because of the appearance of its discharge lighting, which lights up the sky like a sheet of light. It is the most common type of cloud that mainly occurs inside a cloud and jumps between different charge areas in the cloud.

FRANKLIN’S LIGHTNING ROD

Have you heard about lightning rods one day? Do you know who Benjamin Franklin is?

Who was Benjamin Franklin?

Benjamin Franklin was an American inventor and politician. He had many inventions such as Urinary Catheter, American Celebrity, Swim Fins, The Odometer, American Political, Cartooning, Glass Armonica, Reaching Device, Franklin Stove, Bifocal, Eyeglasses, and the Lightning Rod. Benjamin Franklin was fond of storms and loved to study them. Lightning Rod was one of his great inventions. 

What is the Lightning Rod?

A lightning rod is an external terminal set up in a building or structure. The main purpose of a lightning rod is to attract the lightning to prevent it from striking a building, structure, or people. You can find many types of lighting rods with different characteristics. 

How does the Lightning Rod work?

By the 1700s Benjamin Franklin invented a gorgeous invention called the “ lightning rod”. Before that invention, the houses were burned out from lightning strikes. One day in May 1752 a thunderstorm passed over the village of Marly-la-Ville “Philadelphia” and destroyed many buildings.

Benjamin Franklin was ready for this storm and waited for it. He prepared the tools for his experiment. Here are the tools he used in his invention:

  1. Kite made of silk cord.
  2. Hemp string.
  3. Silk string. 
  4. House key. 
  5. Wire. 

First, Franklin built a simple kite and connected a wire to the top of it. At the bottom of the kite, he tied a hemp string, and silk string. After that Franklin attached the key to the hemp string. Then they waited. Franklin’s son helped him to fly the kite in the air through the thunderstorm.

Franklin noticed that the free threads of the hemp string were upstanding, just as they suspended on a common conductor. Also when he moved his finger close to the key, he felt a spark because the electricity reached the key. The negative charges in the metal piece attracted the positive charges in his hand, so he felt 09othis spark.

From this point, Franklin proved some points:
  • The metal key was electrostatically charged.
  • The clouds were electrically charged.
  • The lightning strikes were large electrostatic discharges.
The portion of lightning rod designed by Benjamin Franklin

As a result of this discovery, in 1753 Franklin invented the lightning rod and it became a great invention at that time. Lightning rods saved many houses and structures from destroying and burning.

What is Fulgurite?

Fulgurite is a glassy formation that happed by a lightning strike on sandy soil. The lightning heats the soil and mixes the soil particles, which surround the path of the channel and cause a hollow tube-lined formation shaped like the lightning strike that formed it.

What is the difference between Thunder and Lightning?

Lightning Thunder
MeansThe flashing of light that is produced by a discharge ”positive and negative charge” of atmospheric electricity.The sound that follows lightning because of a sudden expansion of the air in the way of the electrical discharge.
EnergyElectrical energy.Sound energy.
MovementLight travels faster than sound. You can see the lightning first. Lightning is fast and too hot. It is more destructive than thunder.Thunder is slower than lightning. You can see thunder after lightning. Thunder causes heavy rain and strong winds. It is not dangerous as lightning.

Formation
Lightning is formed when water and ice particles hit with warm air and build up static energy. Thunder is formed by the quick expansion of gases in the electrical charge of lightning.

What is Volcanic Lightning?

Volcanic lightning is known as “Dirty Thunderstorms”. It is able to produce some of the most powerful lightning storms on Earth.  

Volcanic eruptions don’t always produce lightning. Just a single eruption can produce multiple or separate lightning storms.  

Scientists discovered that lightning seems to be explosions throughout the eruption, however, not all explosions occur lightning. They also observed that most of the strong lightning happens at the beginning of the eruption and after that lightning progressively less in intensity as the eruption continued, it may take weeks to stop.

Facts about Lightning and Thunder

  • Thunderstorms are always a result of lightning, so you can’t see and hear a thunderstorm without lightning. On the other hand, you can see lightning without a thunderstorm. 
  • Thunder is sometimes called “heat lightning” because it always happens in the summer.
  • Lightning can have 100 million to 1 billion volts and contains billions of watts.
  • Positive lightning is stronger than negative lightning because of its electrical field. And due to its long flash duration and its great peak charge, positive lightning is considered more dangerous than negative lightning.
  • Lightning happens more in the summer due to the humidity in the atmosphere. The land surface is warm in summer, so warm air keeps more water vapor. The water vapor condenses into liquid water cloud drops, the latent heat is released to occur thunderstorm.  Moist and warm air near the surface can cause deep convection that may produce lightning.
  • Thunderstorms are less common in the winter, and sometimes lightning can happen during snowstorms. 
  • Lightning hit the same spot more than one time.
  • Lightning hit taller objects more than shorter objects to produce the upward channel.

What is the 30-30 Rule for Lightning?

It is considered an easy way to determine the lightning in our area. First, if you see lightning start, begin counting to 30. Then, count the seconds between seeing lightning and hearing thunder.

If this second is less than 30 seconds so this lightning is so harmful. At this time you should quickly search for a safe place to hide in.

Lightning Tips for Kids

Here are some tips, which help you to protect yourself from harmful Lightning: 
  • You can protect yourself from harmful lightning by staying indoors during the storm. Indoors means a safe place such as homes, enclosed shelters, offices, and shopping centers.
  • Always follow up the weather forecast to know what’s the news about the weather.
  • During thunderstorms, you should delay any activity outdoors.
  • Don’t forget the 30-30 rule. 
  • If you are stuck in an open area, try hard to find a safe place to stay in. you can get low, sit down, or crunch that may help you to stay safe but not remove you from danger.
  •  If you are stuck outside and there is no safe place to hide, the following actions may remove the danger from you:
  1. If you are in elevated areas such as hills, or peaks, you should leave it instantly.
  2. Don’t lie flat on the ground just crouch down, tuck your head, and put your hands over your ears. 
  3. Don’t stay under a tree.
  4. Don’t stay on a cliff or rocky overhang.
  5. If you are swimming in a pond, sea, or pool, instantly get off the water. 
  6. Don’t stand near objects that conduct electricity such as light poles, barbed wire fences, and power lines that is because lightning can travel through any metal.
  •  Staying at home never indoors protects you from lightning. So f you are indoors “homes”, you should follow these instructions, which keep you safe and reduce your risk of being struck by lightning:
  • Stop using water during a thunderstorm such as a shower, wash dishes or any other activity with water. Lightning can travel through plumbing.
  • Turn off all electronic equipment, lightning can travel through electrical systems such as televisions, iron, air conditions.
  • During thunderstorms do not lie on concrete floors or stand on walls, lightning can travel through metal wires in concrete flooring or walls.

Let’s Do Simple Experiments

1- How to make Lightning at home?
Materials:
  • A low-watt light bulb and a ballon.
Process:
  • Make the room dark by closing the curtains and turning off the lights. 
  • Blowing up the balloon and rub it on your head.
  • The friction builds up an electrical charge just like the inside of the cloud during the storm.
  • Move the balloon closer to the end of the light bulb.
Conclusion: 
  • The light-up is similar to lightning, the negative charge from the ballon leaps across the air and is connected to positive charges inside of the light bulb, that what happened during the thunderstorm from a cloud to another cloud, or from a cloud to the ground.
2- How to Make a Spark?
Materials:
  • Pencil with an eraser.
  • Aluminum tray.
  • Your hair.
  • Styrofoam plate.
  • Thumbtack.
Process:
  • Attach the pencil with an eraser in the center of the aluminum tray by using pushpins.
  • The function of the pencil is to make like a handle “ to lift the aluminum tray”. 
  • Rub the styrofoam with your hair, you should rub it roundly, fast, and so hard for about 3 minutes.
Conclusion:
  • Hold up the aluminum tray by using the pencil handle and putting it on the Styrofoam plate.
  • You will see the spark very clearly as what you see during lightning…Try it yourself…
Common Questions about Lightning

1- What is the speed of lightning?

The flashes of lightning that we see travel at the speed of light “670,000,000 mph”. 

2- Is lightning a fire or air?

Lightning is a brilliant electric spark “fire” discharge in the atmosphere, which occurs during a thundercloud.

3- Is lightning faster than sound?

No, doubt that lightning and thunder occur at the same time. But in fact, we see lightning before hearing thunder because light travels a million times faster than sound. On the other hand, sound takes about five seconds to travel one mile.

4- Is lightning as fast as the speed of light?

No, lightning is not as fast as the speed of light. The speed of light is 299,792,458 meters per second.

5- Is lightning faster than a bullet?

Yes, if we compare lightning speed with bullet speed we will find that lightning is faster than a bullet.

6- Is lightning hotter than the sun?

Yes,  lightning is hotter than the sun, which is 5 times hotter than the surface of the sun. In fact, lightning strikes fall on a tree, it can blow off.

7- Is anything faster than light?

No, there is no object else that can travel faster than lightning.

What Do You Know About Clouds?

The mysterious world of Clouds is an interesting topic for kids. Kids always look at the sky and wonder about clouds. What are they? What Do they look like? What are clouds made of? How are clouds formed? Are there types of clouds? What are those types? Do they have names? How do they affect the weather?

Actually clouds are a world that has many interesting facts. These Tiny droplets of water that combine together are called clouds. Clouds have different types. Each type has special characteristics. They look different and take different shapes.

Clouds affect the weather as well. When we look at the clouds in the sky, we can predict if it is a beautiful sunny day or there is a storm coming. The color of clouds also has a significance. There are high, middle, and low level clouds.

Definition of Clouds

A cloud is a white or grey mass of fine drops of water or ice high in the earth’s atmosphere. Clouds float in the sky above us and block out the Sun. Sometimes clouds are white and puffy. Sometimes they are dark and cover the entire sky. Different types of clouds reflect different weather conditions.

Clouds Formation

The air always contains water vapor. The amount of water vapor that air can hold depends on the air’s temperature. When air cools, some of the water vapor condenses, or forms visible water droplets. The droplets form around tiny particles in the air. When billions of these droplets come together they become a visible cloud.

White Clouds Vs Grey Clouds

Clouds are white because they reflect light from the sun. When  clouds become so filled with water that they don’t reflect light. Then, they are grey clouds.  Also,  if there are lots of other clouds around, their shadow can add to the grey or multicolored grey appearance.

What are the Types of Clouds?

Clouds are often described by the level or elevation where they form. There are high, middle, and low level clouds. Meteorologists (people who study weather) combine cloud characteristics and levels to get the ten main cloud types as follows:

High cloud  cirrus, cirrocumulus, cirrostratus
Middle cloud altostratus, altocumulus, nimbostratus
Low cloud stratus, stratocumulus
Vertical cumulus, cumulonimbus

Mysterious World of Clouds- White clouds
Mysterious World of Clouds- White clouds

Mysterious World of clouds- Grey clouds
Mysterious World of clouds- Grey clouds

Cirrus Clouds

Cirrus clouds are the most common of the high clouds. They are Above 18,000 feet. They are thin clouds made of ice crystals that form very high in the sky. These clouds are the highest clouds and the temperature at the height where they form is about 36 degrees.

Cirrus clouds are usually white and predict fair to pleasant weather. When you see cirrus clouds, it usually indicates that a change in the weather will occur within 24 hours. Where these clouds form, the wind blows between 100 and 150 miles per hour.

Cirrocumulus Clouds

Cirrocumulus Clouds are high clouds that look like tiny cotton balls bunched together. They appear as small, rounded white puffs that appear in long rows. Cirrocumulus clouds are usually seen in the winter and indicate fair, but cold weather. In tropical regions, they may indicate an approaching hurricane.

Cirrostratus Clouds

They are thin, sheet like high clouds that often cover the entire sky like a veil making it appear overcast. These clouds signal that it may rain in the next day or so. They are so thin that the sun and moon can be seen through them. These clouds are most commonly seen in the winter.

Altostratus Clouds

Altostratus Clouds are grey or blue-grey mid level clouds. They are  composed of ice crystals and water droplets. They form in the middle of the sky, between 6,500 and 20,000 feet high. On days when there are Altostratus clouds, the sun is not very visible. Usually they are a sign of continuous rain or snow.

Altocumulus Clouds

Altocumulus Clouds are mid level clouds that are made of water droplets and appear as grey puffy masses. They are lower than cirrus clouds, but still quite high. They are made of liquid water, but they don’t often produce rain.  When you see Altocumulus clouds on a warm, sticky morning,  They usually form in groups.

Nimbostratus Clouds

Nimbostratus clouds are dark, grey clouds that seem to fade into falling rain or snow. are so thick that they often blot out the sunlight. They often produce precipitation that is usually light to moderate. They can float as low as 2,000 meter above the ground, which is pretty low for a cloud.

Stratus Clouds

Stratus clouds often look like thin, white sheets covering the whole sky. Since they are so thin, they seldom produce much rain or snow. Sometimes, in the mountains or hills, these clouds appear to be fog. Light mist or drizzle sometimes falls out of these clouds.

Stratocumulus Clouds

Stratocumulus clouds are patchy grey or white clouds that often have a dark honeycomb-like appearance. They can be found between 2,000-6,500 feet above the Earth’s surface. Most form in rows with blue sky visible in between them. Rain rarely occurs with Stratocumulus clouds, however, they can turn into Nimbostratus clouds.

Cumulus Clouds

Cumulus clouds look like fluffy, white cotton balls in the sky. They are beautiful in sunsets, and their varying sizes and shapes can make them fun to observe. These clouds usually form when the weather is nice and it will be a great day to play outside. These clouds grow upward and they can develop into giant cumulonimbus clouds, which are thunderstorm clouds.

Cumulonimbus Clouds

Cumulonimbus clouds grow on hot days when warm, wet air rises very high into the sky. They are large, tall clouds that are dark on the bottom. From far away, they look like huge mountains or towers. They are associated with heavy rain, snow, hail, lightning and even tornadoes.

Most clouds can be divided into groups (high/middle/low) based on the height of the cloud’s base above the Earth’s surface. Other clouds are grouped not by their height, but by their unique characteristics, such as forming alongside mountains (Lenticular clouds) or forming beneath existing clouds (Mammatus clouds).

Lenticular Clouds

They are lens-shaped orographic wave clouds that form when the air is stable and winds blow across hills and mountains from the same or similar direction at different heights through the troposphere. They are Curved layers, like flying saucers.

Where stable moist air flows over a mountain or a range of mountains, a series of large-scale standing waves may form on the downwind side. Lenticular clouds sometimes form at the crests of these waves. On the ground, they can result in very strong gusty winds in one place, with still air only a few hundred meters away.

Kelvin-Helmholtz Clouds

They look like breaking waves in the ocean. After wind blows up and over a barrier, like a mountain, the air continues flowing through the atmosphere in a wavelike pattern. We’re more likely to see these clouds near sunrise or sunset, another time when the bottom of the clouds are cooler and the air above is warmer.

Complex evaporation and condensation patterns create the capped tops and cloudless troughs of the waves. These clouds form when there is a difference in the wind speed or direction between two wind currents in the atmosphere.

Mammatus Clouds

Mammatus clouds are low hanging bulges that droop from cumulonimbus clouds. They are usually associated with severe weather. They produce very strong storms.  These clouds usually form during warm months, and are formed by descending air in the cloud. They are sometimes described as looking like a field of tennis balls or melons.

Contrail Clouds

Contrail Clouds are  a trail of condensed vapor produced when a Jet aircraft flying at high altitudes. The mixing of hot exhaust gases from the engines with cold outside air causes ice crystals to form on particles in the exhaust.

A contrail evaporates rapidly when the relative humidity of the surrounding air is low. If the humidity is high, a contrail may stay visible as cirrus-like clouds for many hours.

Here is a diagram shows the different types of clouds:

Cloud Types | Center for Science Education
Different types of clouds

Compare and Contrast Cumulus and Cirrus Clouds

Cirrus clouds are wispy, veil-like clouds that form in the upper troposphere, while cumulus clouds are stacked, dense and fluffy, and they form much closer to the ground.  If a cumulus cloud grows large enough, it can become a towering cumulus cloud, and as it grows denser and heavier, it becomes a cumulonimbus cloud, or a storm cloud.

All clouds form from condensed water, but in the case of cirrus clouds, the water has frozen. The ice crystals that form the clouds refract sunlight, so you can often see rainbows in the middle of cirrus clouds. Some of the water droplets that form a cumulus cloud may also be frozen, but most of them are in the liquid state.

In areas of high moisture, cumulus clouds can form at the same altitude as cirrus clouds, but the two look very different from the ground. Neither of these types of clouds are rain clouds or snow clouds, but if you see them, rain clouds or snow clouds may not be far behind.

How do Clouds Affect Weather?

Clouds play an important role in Earth’s climate. One of the easiest ways to predict weather is to look at the clouds. Different clouds reflect different types of weather. They are an essential part of the water cycle. Clouds also have an important effect on Earth’s temperature. They can both cool down and warm up the temperatures on Earth.

Clouds can block light and heat from the Sun, making Earth’s temperature cooler. Clouds can trap that heat from the Sun. At night, when there’s no sunlight, clouds are still trapping heat. So clouds can have both a cooling effect and a warming effect.

Low-Level clouds tend to cool more than they warm. These low, thicker clouds mostly reflect the Sun’s heat. This cools Earth’s surface. However, High-Level clouds have the opposite effect. They tend to warm Earth more than they cool. High, thin clouds trap some of the Sun’s heat. This warms Earth’s surface.

What are the Scientific Names of Clouds?

Most of our names for clouds come from Latin and are usually a combination of the following prefixes and suffixes:

  • Stratus/strato: flat/layered and smooth
  • Cumulus/cumulo: heaped up/puffy, like cauliflower
  • Cirrus/cirro: high up/wispy
  • Alto: medium level
  • Nimbus/Nimbo: rain-bearing cloud

Where these names are combined, we can often build up an idea of that cloud’s character. So the names are: cirrus, cirrocumulus, cirrostratus, altostratus, altocumulus, nimbostratus. stratus, stratocumulus, cumulus and cumulonimbus

What is the Biggest Cloud in the Sky?

Towering-vertical clouds are very tall with tops usually higher than 6,000 m. They can create heavy rain and snow showers. Cumulonimbus, the biggest clouds of all, can also produce thunderstorms. These clouds are mostly made of water droplets, but the tops of very large cumulonimbus clouds are often made mostly of ice crystals.

Clouds Vs Fog

Tiny water drops hovering in the air are called fog. Fog is like a cloud, but it is near the ground, not high in the sky. Thick fog makes it difficult to see the surrounding landscape. Fog forms from water vapor, which is water in the form of a gas.

Fog appears when this liquid gathers around bits of dust in the air. A gentle wind helps fog to form and to stay in the air. Fog is very common in valleys and near bodies of water. It usually forms at night.

Clouds can form at many different altitudes. They can be as high as 12 miles above sea level or as low as the ground. Fog is a kind of cloud that touches the ground. Fog forms when the air near the ground cools enough to turn its water vapor into liquid water or ice.

There are many different types of fog, too. Ice fog forms when the air near the ground is cold enough to turn the water in fog into ice crystals. Another kind of fog is freezing fog. Super fog forms when smoke from wildfires and water vapor come together to form an extremely dense fog.

Clouds Activities

Here are some activities for kids to see clouds:

  • In this activity, kids see clouds form when they breathe on spoons. When warm, moist breath hits the cool spoon, water vapor condenses and turns into a cloud–or water you can see.
  • Types of Clouds – Describe and make examples of the four types of clouds – cirrus, cumulus, stratus and nimbus. Use crayons and cotton balls to make each one!

A cloud is a large collection of very tiny droplets of water or ice crystals. The droplets are so small and light that they can float in the air. Clouds are often described by the level or elevation where they form. There are high, middle, and low level clouds. They play an important role in Earth’s climate.

The weather is something that we experience every day. Having an appreciation and understanding of it at an early age is important. Explaining weather for kids can be a fun and dynamic experience. There is plenty of content online and in books to explain what weather is for people. Not a singular entity, the weather encompasses things like sun, wind, rain, hail, and snow. Weather occurs as the Earth is heated unevenly by the sun. It is these changes in temperature that cause winds to form which blow hot or cold air around. Wind also causes the formation of clouds through precipitation and storms as air is pushed up vertically. 

Weather for Kids: Tsunamis 

The word tsunami can strike fear into someone from simply hearing it. It is a powerful force and it is important to know the signs of one as they often lead to natural disasters. A tsunami is a huge wave that is caused by an underwater earthquake and/or a volcanic explosion. Being such large waves, some people mistake tsunamis for tidal waves. This is a common mistake due to the large nature of the wave itself, but they are nuanced differences that separate the two from each other. For example, tidal waves are caused by the sun, moon, or planet tides. This causes the wind to move over the water with typical waves as the water flows in circles. The major difference is the water flow. While tidal waves are served in circles, it is the waves from tsunamis that are most damaging and worrying as they flow straight. Weather for kids provides information for people to learn how to recognise these differences. 

Tsunamis occur when tectonic plates are formed in the earth’s crust. When they are being created, at times, they get stuck together causing pressure to build up. When the plates pull apart again and into place, they slam with such a force that it can cause an earthquake. This is the most common reason for tsunamis. Though underwater earthquakes bear most of the responsibility for tsunamis, underwater landslides and volcanic eruptions can also cause tsunamis to occur. The word tsunami originates from a Japanese word that means ‘a great harbour wave’. A common occurrence in South East Asia, they are a life-threatening weather phenomenon and it is important to understand them. Introducing them in weather for kids gives children an opportunity to appreciate what other countries contest with. 

 

Weather for Kids: Earthquakes

When the ground shakes, this is a clear sign there is an earthquake. Weather for kids can help children understand the danger of earthquakes and what to do if they are ever in a situation where they could possibly be caught in one. Understanding earth matter is the most important part of understanding how earthquakes occur. Planet composition is fascinating. Made up of four layers that include the inner core, the outer core, the mantle, and the crust, there are lots of things that go on below our surface. The mantle and the crust are incredibly thin. In miles, the mantle is 1750 miles thick whilst the crust is only 8 miles thick. To understand this ‘thin skin’, it is broken into pieces known as tectonic plates. Like a jigsaw puzzle, these pieces all fit neatly together. Sometimes though they slide under one another or bang into each other and become stuck. Naturally, when they are being ripped apart, they create a movement that causes the earth to tremble. This shaking is what we refer to as an earthquake. 

Due to this happening to tectonic plates fairly often, people have required ways to measure how severe the earthquake was. The instruments that are used to calculate these results are known as seismographs. The instrument is made up of a weighted pen and spring, and these are able to record the vibrations from the earthquake by making lines from the pen onto paper. This is an effective way of discovering the size of the earthquake – if it’s small, there is a short, wiggly line, and if it’s big, then there will be a long wiggly line. There is a scale to place the size of earthquakes as well. Having been invented back in 1934, the Richter scale is the popular method of measuring earthquakes. Measuring from 0 to 10, the larger the earthquake, the higher the number will be on the scale. An earthquake of a magnitude of 3 you might not even notice, but one that hits 8 can cause bridges to collapse and cracks in the walls. 

Weather for Kids: Thunder and Lightning

Weather can be overwhelming, overpowering, and dangerous, but some are even lovely to watch. Thunder and lightning can light up our sky and, from the safety of sheltered space, they are lovely to see. However, they can be completely dangerous so it is important to look after yourself when it appears. Thunderstorms occur when cumulonimbus clouds appear. These clouds produce gusty winds, heavy rain, and even hail! They are large and tall clouds that have dark sections at the bottom of their whisps. There is a difference between thunder and lightning. Thunder is the rolling sound that you hear. It is usually deep and reverberates over the skies. Lightning is, however, the sight that you see. Lightning is the bright flash of electricity. These are both produced from the thunderstorms. 

While lightning may look lovely, it is incredibly dangerous. Lightning kills and injures more people each year than hurricanes. If you are trapped outside during a thunderstorm, try to get inside immediately. If you can’t get to a building, then try to get to a car. Never stand in a pool of water or under trees. If you are with a group of people, make sure to stand within 15 feet of each other. If you are lucky enough to be inside, then stay away from water and electronic devices that you could use like televisions and game consoles. Weather for kids is an important way of helping children understand our environment and the weather that accompanies that. There are plenty of ways to be safe and learning more about the weather can help us achieve that. 

Do you know what thunder and lightning is? Have you ever got frightened by the thunder sound? Do you know that you should follow specific tips during lightning times in order to stay safe and protect yourself? In this lesson, you are going to learn all about thunder and lightning as well as some safety tips to follow during lightning times. Let’s learn! 

What are Thunder and Lightning?

Lightning is a bright flash of electricity that appears in the sky during a thunderstorm. Thunder is the loud sound that is caused by the lightning. 

Thunderstorms

A thunderstorm is a storm that makes strong winds, heavy rain, lightning and thunder. A thunderstorm is produced by cumulonimbus clouds. The word “cumulonimbus” is Latin, and it is divided into two parts: “cumulus” which means pile, and “nimbus” which means rain cloud. Cumulonimbus clouds are a type of clouds that are large, tall and dark on the bottom. They form on hot days when warm, moist air rises high in the sky. These clouds usually produce gusty winds and rain.

A thunderstorm occurs when the air is unstable because of the collision between warm air and cold air. Warm air is lighter than cold air. On hot days, warm air rises up quickly and clashes with the cold air that is found high in the sky causing a thunderstorm.

Types of Thunderstorms

1. Single-Cell Thunderstorms

They are small, weak storms usually found in spring and summer. They form, grow and die within an hour or so. Single-Cell thunderstorms can bring brief heavy rain, hail and sometimes lightning. 

2. Multi-Cell Thunderstorms

A multi-cell thunderstorm is the combination of multiple single-cell storms. It can bring hail and gusty winds, but it often leads to flash flooding. 

3. Squall Line Thunderstorms

A squall line is a line of thunderstorms along with squalls of heavy rain and high wind. They are often so long, sometimes hundreds of miles long, but only 10 or 20 miles wide. They often pass quickly, and they occasionally produce tornadoes. Squall line thunderstorms can also cause lightning and tornadoes to occur. 

4. Supercell Thunderstorms

Supercell thunderstorms are the largest and the most dangerous type of thunderstorms. They are strong thunderstorms with a rotating updraft (an upward current of air). These thunderstorms usually produce tornadoes, and they can also produce large hail, damaging winds, and flash flooding. 

thunderstorm

What Causes Thunder and Lightning?

A cloud contains water droplets and ice particles. Those droplets and particles carry electrical charges, some are positive charges and others are negative. When too many negative charges collect in a cloud, positive charges form under the cloud on the ground in order to balance the negative ones. 

Scientifically, opposite charges attract. So, those negative charges in the cloud attract to the positive ones on the ground. However, electricity does not move easily through air, so it is difficult for the charges to band together. 

The charges get stronger as the cloud grows. Eventually, the charges get stronger than the air, and the cloud releases a strong electrical current with a negative charge. As this negatively charged current heads towards the ground, a positively charged current jumps from the ground to meet it. When the two currents unite, they produce a bright flash that heads back up towards the cloud. This is the lightning flash. 

The loud booming sound that is heard after lightning is the thunder. The electricity from the lightning makes the air very hot. When the air is suddenly heated, it expands very quickly and violently making a loud noise, which is thunder. 

Types of Lightning

There are three primary types of lightning according to the starting and ending points of the flash. Lightning can be “intracloud”, “cloud to cloud”, or “cloud to ground”. It also has two types according to how it appears. Lightning is either a “sheet lightning” or a “fork lightning”. 

1. Intracloud (IC)

The most common type of lightning. Intracloud lightning occurs completely inside a single cloud. The opposite charges in the cloud unite and cause lightning. Intracloud lightning is sheet lightning, because it lights up the sky with a sheet of light instead of a thunderbolt. 

2. Cloud to Cloud (CC) or Intercloud

It is also called “intercloud lightning”. This type of lightning starts and ends between positive and negative charges within two or more different clouds. Here, the lightning strike travels in the air between the clouds. Cloud to cloud lightning produces a thunderbolt, so it is considered fork lightning.

3. Cloud to Ground (CG)

It is the lightning that starts in a cloud and ends on the ground or vice versa. It occurs when currents from a cloud unite with currents from the ground. Cloud to ground lightning produces a thunderbolt, so it is considered a fork lightning. 

Why Do We See Lightning Before Hearing Thunder?

The reason we see the lightning flash before we can hear thunder is because light travels faster than sound. Lightning is so bright that it can be seen from far distances, but thunder cannot always be heard from far away. In fact, you may sometimes see lightning and do not even hear thunder; in this case, the lightning is pretty far away from where you are. If lightning is very near, thunder will be heard soon after the lightning flash, and its sound will be very loud. If the lightning is farther away, the thunder will be heard a few seconds after the lightning. 

How Far Away is the Lightning?

The lightning flash can be seen from as far as 100 miles, depending on its height and the clarity of the air. On the other hand, thunder is usually heard from less than 15 miles or even less than 5 miles in a noisy city. 

You can estimate how far away the lightning strike is from you by counting the number of seconds that pass between lightning and its thunder sound. Divide the number of seconds by five, the result is approximately how many miles the lightning is far from where you are. For example, if 10 seconds passes between the lightning and the thunder, then the lightning strike is around 2 miles away. 

Lightning can strike as far away as 10 miles from the centre of a thunderstorm. So, if the time delay between lightning and thunder is short, and the distance to the lightning is 6 miles or less, then consider finding shelter.

Effects of Lightning

Thunder may sound really scary, but it does not commonly hurt living creatures. On the contrary, lightning can kill people or cause damage when it strikes.  

  • People struck by lightning can get burns, especially in the head, shoulders and neck. They can also get injured from falling or getting thrown through the air. Although 90 percent of people struck by lightning survive, they suffer from long-term exhausting symptoms because of the damage caused to internal organs and the nervous system. The symptoms include memory loss, sleep disorders, dizziness, numbness, attention deficits, muscle spasms and depression.
  • Lightning seeks an easy path to the ground, so it damages any obstacle in its way. It usually damages buildings or tall structures. It can also damage ships and aeroplanes when it strikes. In addition, the electrical currents brought by the lightning can travel through open water, making it dangerous.

Lightning can also be beneficial. The heat from lightning joins the nitrogen and oxygen in the air, and they together form nitrates and other compounds. When it rains, these nutrients fall to the Earth and nourish the soil, which helps plants grow. 

Warning Signs of a Thunderstorm

It is important that you know the signs of a thunderstorm so that you can seek shelter and keep safe when there is one. Here are some warning signs of a thunderstorm:

  • Lots of dark clouds appear, sometimes suddenly. This is because these clouds are formed by the condensation that happens when warm and cold air clash. These clouds are also fast moving because of the powerful winds.
  • The sky gets dark. The heavy clouds partially block out the sunlight.
  • There will often be a sudden drop in temperature. This is because the cold air sinks down quickly as the warm air rises up in the sky.
  • Winds can suddenly blow or change direction.
  • The most important sign is thunder and lightning. As we learned, lightning can occur up to 15 miles away from the centre of a thunderstorm. So, we can see the lightning and hear the thunder before the storm arrives.
  • There might be interference with electrical devices such as radio and television. This is because of the electrical charges associated with the lightning.

How to Stay Safe During a Thunderstorm

If you are outside during a thunderstorm, these tips will help you keep as safe as possible:

  • When thunder roars, go indoors! Move into your house or any other building.
  • If you cannot get into a building, try to find a shelter outside. A low place under some small trees might be good, but do not shelter under a tree by itself.
  • Do not stand on elevated areas, such as hills or mountain peaks, and try not to be the tallest object.
  • Do not seek shelter in a cliff or rocky overhang.
  • Stay away from ponds, lakes or any other water body because water conducts electricity.
  • Stay away from anything that conducts electricity, such as barbed wire fences, power lines, or windmills.
  • Do not lie flat on the ground. Crouch down like a ball, tuck your head and put your hands over your ears.

If you are indoors during a thunderstorm, follow these tips for safety:

  • Do not use the telephone or any electrical device. Lightning can travel through electrical systems.
  • Do not take a bath, shower, or wash dishes. Avoid any contact with water because lightning can travel through plumbing.
  • Stay away from windows and doors and stay off balconies.

5 of the Worst Lightning Strikes in History

1. Brescia Explosion, 1769

It was one of the deadliest lightning strikes that has ever happened. In the town of Brescia, Italy, a church called the Church of St. Nazaire was used to store gunpowder. Lightning struck the church directly one day in 1769, and all the gunpowder (around 90,000 kg) caught on fire and exploded. The explosion killed around 3,000 people and destroyed a sixth of the city.

2. Dronka Lightning Incident, 1994

On 2 November 1994, a deadly incident happened in Dronka, Asyut Governorate, Egypt. A lightning strike caused fuel tanks belonging to the Egyptian Army strategic reserve to explode. Around 15,000 tonnes of oil leaked from the tanks and mixed with floodwaters. The floodwaters and the oil wiped the village, destroying more than 200 houses and killing 469 people.

3. LANSA Flight 508, 1971

In 1971, Flight 508 from Lima to Pucallpa in Peru crashed into the Amazon rainforest after a lightning strike ignited a fuel tank. All 91 people aboard were killed. The only person who survived was a 17-year-old girl called Juliane Koepcke. She fell 2 miles (3.2 km) down into the Amazon rainforest strapped to her seat. She then walked through the jungle for 10 days until she was rescued by local timber men.

4. Pan Am Flight, 1963

In 1963, A Pan Am flight was struck by lightning when it was about to land in Philadelphia. A part of the wing tore off, and the fuel tank ignited. This accident resulted in the death of all 81 passengers and crew on board.

5. Cows of New South Wales, 2005

In October 2005, a single lightning bolt killed 68 cows on a farm in New South Wales, Australia. The cows were grouped together to be milked when they were struck by lightning.

Quick Facts

  1. Lightning is about four times hotter than the surface of the Sun. The surface of the Sun is about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, while a lightning strike can reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Air is a poor conductor of electricity, and that’s why it gets very hot when lightning passes through it.
  3. The energy from one lightning flash is so great that it could light a 100 watt light bulb for more than 3 months.
  4. At any given moment, there are an average of 2,000 active thunderstorms across the world.
  5. There are around 16 million thunderstorms across the Earth every year.
  6. About 50 to 100 lightning bolts strike the Earth every second.
  7. Around 2000 people are struck by lightning each year.
  8. Lightning causes an average of 80 deaths and 300 injuries each year.
  9. Thunderstorms do not usually occur in winter because there is not as much moisture and warm air as there is in spring and summer.
  10. When a thunderstorm occurs in winter, it is often called a thundersnow, and it produces snow instead of rain in the precipitation process.
  11. Weak thunderstorms are sometimes called thundershowers.
  12. Thunderstorms do not occur only on Earth, but also on other planets in the Solar System. There have been thunderstorms on Jupiter, Neptune, Saturn and Venus.
thunder and lightning

Have you ever thought about the reason why some spinning games at the amusement parks are referred to as tornadoes? This goes back to the real tornado that is known to be a natural disaster. The first thing that comes to mind when tornadoes are talked about is “spinning” because a tornado can be simply defined as “spinning wind”. But what actually is a tornado? Let’s find out!

What Are Tornadoes?

A tornado is a tube of wind that spins rapidly and extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the Earth’s surface. This means that it touches both the ground and a cloud above. In fact, it must touch the ground in order to be a tornado. It is a deadly combination of wind and power.

What Causes Tornadoes?

Most tornadoes start from a thunderstorm, mainly in Spring and Summer. When warm, moist air meets cool, dry air, they create instability in the atmosphere. A change in wind direction and an increase in wind speed with increasing height causes the air to swirl. Rising air from the ground pushes up on the swirling air and tips it over. The funnel of swirling air begins to suck up more warm air from the ground. The funnel grows longer and stretches toward the ground. When the funnel touches the ground it becomes a tornado. 

A supercell thunderstorm is a long-lived thunderstorm whose updrafts and downdrafts are in near balance. These storms usually produce tornadoes that stay on the ground for a long time. Supercell thunderstorms can produce violent tornadoes with winds exceeding 200 mph.

Tornado Characteristics

Appearance

Tornadoes appear in the form of swirling air, but they do not always appear in the same way. Sometimes a tornado appears as a funnel, other times it appears as a thin rope. There are also those tornadoes that have multiple vortices, which are thin small tornadoes rotating around, and they sometimes are not invisible or clear. Others may be nearly invisible, with only swirling dust or debris at ground levels that indicates that there is a tornado. 

Movement

The width of tornadoes, duration, and the distance they travel, varies. A tornado can range from a few feet to hundreds of feet wide. Most tornadoes last less than ten minutes and travel five to ten kilometers before disappearing. In extreme cases, however, they can last several hours and cross distances over 150km! The winds usually turn counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.

Speed

The winds of a tornado can reach speeds of up to 480 km per hour, which is strong enough to peel the roofs off houses, uproot trees and hurl heavy objects, such as cars, hundreds of meters!

Measuring

Tornadoes are measured using the Fujita Scale (or F-scale). It rates tornadoes by how much damage they cause, ranging from F0 to F5, with F5 being the strongest and most destructive.

Where Do Tornadoes Occur?

Tornadoes can occur almost anywhere on Earth. The United States has the most reported tornadoes per year, more than any other country. There are around 1200 tornadoes every year in the USA. Most of these tornadoes occur in a unique area nicknamed “Tornado Alley”. The states in the USA that are most frequently hit by tornadoes are Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Florida.

When Are Tornadoes Most Likely to Occur?

Tornadoes can happen at any time of the year and at any time of the day. In the southern states, peak tornado season is from March through to May. Peak times for tornadoes in the northern states are during the summer. Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Differences Between a Tornado and a Tsunami

A tornado is a violent windstorm that has a twisting, funnel-shaped cloud, while tsunami is a very large wave caused by underwater earthquake or volcanic eruption. Tsunamis form large waves, while tornadoes form large columns of rotating air. In addition, tornadoes are primarily funnel shaped, but tsunamis come in the form of tidal waves.

When it comes to destruction, tornadoes have a narrow path of destruction, usually only a few hundred yards wide to maybe a mile. A tsunami is way more powerful and destructive, as it can be hundreds of miles wide and destroy a much larger area. Plus the water can also drown people even if the wave itself does not kill them at first.

Differences Between a Tornado and a Hurricane

Tornadoes and hurricanes are both destructive storms. They both rotate clockwise in the southern hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere. The difference between them is that tornadoes occur mainly over land, while hurricanes begin over the ocean. Hurricanes are much larger than tornadoes. Hurricanes can last several days, whereas tornadoes only last several minutes.Tornadoes occur on all continents except Antarctica, while hurricanes occur only in the North Atlantic Ocean and Eastern Pacific Ocean. Last but not least, the frequency of tornadoes is much more than the frequency of hurricanes. Tornadoes occur several thousand times per year, while hurricanes only occur 10-15 times per year.

Differences Between a Tornado and a Cyclone

Both tornadoes and cyclones are types of strong, swirling storms that can be very destructive. They both rotate in a counterclockwise direction north of the equator, and in a clockwise direction south of the equator. However, cyclones usually occur in tropical areas over the Pacific and Indian Oceans, whereas tornadoes occur anywhere (except Antarctica) where cold and warm air meet.Tornado’s winds swirl around a central point in a funnel-shaped cloud. Cyclone’s winds rotate around a center of low pressure.

Tornado Consequences

Tornadoes are very destructive. A tornado can destroy everything in its path. It can destroy large buildings, tear houses to pieces, uproot trees and throw vehicles away. Winds can also destroy bridges, flip trains, send cars and trucks flying, and suck all the water from a riverbed.

Adding to all this, tornadoes kill large numbers of people. The high winds of tornadoes sometimes kill or injure people by rolling them along the ground or dropping them from dangerous heights. Not only that, but people also get stuck by flying debris, such as metal rods, doors and broken glass. 

Tornado Consequences

The Deadliest Tornadoes in History

The deadliest tornado in world history was the Daulatpur–Saturia tornado in Bangladesh on April 26, 1989. It killed around 1,300 people. In the United States, where tornadoes occur more than any other country, the deadliest tornado was the Tri-State Tornado in 1925. It spread through parts of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, and lasted over three and a half hours. This tornado killed around 695 people, destroyed 15,000 homes, and caused injuries to around 2,000 people. 

How to Stay Safe If a Tornado Hits?

As we know, tornadoes are very dangerous, and they cannot be stopped. However, there are some tips to follow in order to survive a tornado. Let us know about them. 

Preparing Before a Tornado

  • Know your area’s tornado risk.
  • Pay attention to weather reports. Always listen to the radio and television for the latest information.
  • Know the signs of a tornado, such as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud, a cloud of debris, or a loud roar.
  • Prepare a disaster plan. Make sure everyone knows where to go in case a tornado is coming.
  • Know and practice going to a safe shelter, such as a safe room with no windows or a basement.
  • Prepare a disaster supplies kit that includes a first aid kit, canned food, bottled water, flashlight, and protective clothing.

During a Tornado

  • Immediately go to a safe location that you have known, such as a basement.
  • If you do not have a basement, go to an interior room without windows on the lowest floor such as a bathroom or closet.
  • Try to get under a sturdy piece of furniture, like a table.
  • Protect yourself by covering your head or neck with your arms. Crouch down on your knees and protect your head.
  • Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls.
  • If you are outside, go to a ditch or low lying area and lie flat in it.
  • Watch out for flying debris that can cause injury or death.
  • If you are in a vehicle, get out of it. Do not try to outrun a tornado in a vehicle.
  • If you live in a mobile home, get out. They are not stable against tornadoes.

Aftermath

  • Stay indoors until it is safe to come out.
  • Watch out for fallen power lines, and stay out of damaged areas.
  • Use a flashlight to inspect your home.
  • Check for injured or trapped people, without putting yourself in danger.
  • If you feel sick, contact your healthcare provider and stay in your shelter.
  • Wear protective gear during clean-up, such as thick shoes, long pants, and gloves. Wear a face cover or a mask.
  • Pay attention to the weather radio for updated news and information.

10 Facts about Tornadoes

  1. If a tornado occurs over water, it is called a waterspout.
  2. Not all tornadoes are easy to see. In fact, they can be invisible until they pick up dust and debris.
  3. The winds inside a tornado usually turn counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.
  4. Tornadoes usually move from west to east.
  5. Usually, tornadoes only last for two or three minutes, but strong tornadoes can last for 15 minutes or longer.
  6. Most tornadoes are only able to travel a few miles before dying out. However, strong tornadoes can sometimes travel over 100 miles (161 kilometers).
  7. It is not yet understood how tornadoes stop, and tornado experts are still trying to solve this puzzle.
  8. Every year in the United States, tornadoes do about 400 million dollars in damage and kill about 70 people on average.
  9. There has been a tornado in every state in the United States.
  10. Tornadoes are sometimes called twisters.
waterspout