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Atmosphere, Weather



One of the most intense storms to ever strike the Eastern United States occurred in March 1993. Weather enthusiasts and casual weather observers were glued to the Weather Channel and other news sources as the "Storm of the Century," as it was coined by the media, unleashed record low pressures, wind speeds, low temperatures and snowfall amounts. This storm was beyond significant with more than 250 deaths and the cancelation of 25% of U.S. flights over two days.

Also known as the "White Hurricane," the storm caused up to $6 billion in damage along the Eastern Seaboard and left 2.5 million people without power while killing 318 [where does this number come from compared to the "more than 250" above?]. Florida received the brunt of the storm: A federal disaster was declared in 21 of its 61 counties. Finger-pointing ensued between Florida Governor Lawton Chiles, local emergency officials and the National Weather Service (NWS) as to why people weren't evacuated before the deadly storm surge hit. (For more information, see Popular Mechanics Article)

Meteorologists routinely utilize past weather events to gain understanding that they then apply to current weather. Your Earth system science analysis will help in understanding past and future winter storms. This is particularly important in light of the potential widespread impact of these winter weather events.



Your town board no longer trusts their local meteorologists. They want you to identify the important variable and how they might be used to provide guidance in notifying your town about potential winter weather threats.


Date: 6/17/2009

Scenario Images:

Track Map
The track of the March 1993 Storm that was called "The Storm of the Century."

Abandoned snow-covered automobiles lined roadways
Snowfall in Asheville, North Carolina from The Storm of the Century,
March 12-14 1993. (

Infrared Satellite Photo
METEOSAT infrared satellite photo March 1993 "Storm of the Century" (13 March 1993). Source: NOAA National Climatic Data Center

Surface Weather Map
The surface weather map for March 13, 1993. NOAA



Background information on winter storms (Cycle A)
This site offers general background about winter storms as well as interactive activities to teach visitors about these storms. It also offers links to other weather-related pages.


Precipitation Along Cold and Warm Fronts (Cycle A)
The purpose of this activity is to introduce how precipitation develops along cold fronts and along warm fronts. Two animations have been constructed to visualize these distinctly different processes and students will use this information for comparison.


Weather Talk (Cycle A)
Weather Talk is a primer on weather and naval meteorology. It provides a brief overview of major weather elements and is presented in a non-mathematical way, so that the reader will have a better understanding of the basic mechanisms of weather and use it to their advantage and safety in planning and carrying out their own activities.


CBS News Reports the March 1993 as EXTREME (Cycle B)
A new 1-to-5 rating system, somewhat similar to the scales for hurricanes and tornadoes, was announced Tuesday by winter experts from the National Weather Service and The Weather Channel. In their study of 70 major Northeastern storms, only two - the storm of March 1993 and the January blizzard of 1996 - fell into the "extreme" category with a 5 rating, reported Paul Kocin, winter weather expert at The Weather Channel, and Louis Uccellini, director of the Weather Service's National Centers for Environmental Prediction.


RMS 15 year retrospective report (Cycle B)
Fifteen years after the event, this report chronicles the meteorological features of the storm and the potential impact of the event should it occur in 2008. The new 2008 RMS® U.S. Winterstorm Model is utilized to highlight
the range of insured losses from the perils of snow, ice, wind, and freezing temperatures.


The Blizzard and Ice Storm in New Jersey (Cycle B)
New Jersey was hard hit by a wide variety of weather hazards from this storm. It was one of the most powerful storms (tropical or extratropical) to hit New Jersey on record.


Youtube Video link of the 11pm newscast in Lousiville (Cycle B)
This 11PM "Late Report" newscast from WLKY-TV in Louisville, KY from 1993 features anchors Vicki Dortch and Bruce Dunbar in the studio, and weathercaster Reed Yadon at the National Weather Service office in Louisville. Hear the weather forecast and top news stories the night before the big storm hit in Louisville, KY.


LEARN: Atmospheric Science Explorers (Cycle C)
This on-line teaching module is for middle school science teachers. The primary audience is classroom teachers and it has been developed with that target audience in mind. The site provides background information and supporting classroom teaching materials.


My NASA Data (Cycle C)
NASA has developed microsets of Earth science data for K-12 education, which can be used with existing curriculum and enable students to practice math skills using real measurements of Earth system variables and processes.

The microsets are created using data from NASA Earth science satellite missions and provide information on the atmosphere, ocean and land surface. New data types continue to be added to the collection. Data is available online along with K-12 lesson plans, computer tools and an Earth science glossary.


The Weather World 2010 Project (Cycle C)
Integrates current and archived weather data (images & text) with instructional resources (modules & curriculum) using innovative technologies.


Using GLOBE Data to Study the Earth System (Cycle C)
This chapter from the Earth Exploration Toolbook guides students through the process of locating and graphing Web-based environmental data that has been collected by GLOBE Program participants.


Sample Investigations:


Cloud data and cloud characteristics (Cycle A)
The purpose of this lesson is to use NASA CERES instrument cloud data and a weather map to explore cloud coverage during a winter storm. Students will map locations using latitude and longitude coordinates as well as use a microset of satellite data to investigate cloud characteristics by applying percentage to determine cloud cover.
Difficulty: intermediate


Cold Front Weather (Cycle A)
In this activity, students will study animations of several atmospheric variables (air temperature, dew point, solar radiation, rainfall, and wind) to investigate the characteristics of weather produced by a cold front passage. Working in small groups, they will view animations from two different cases, identify patterns and changes, and answer questions about what they see.
Difficulty: intermediate


Track a real winter storm (Cycle A)
In this activity, students track a real winter storm, collect imagery and data, perform an analysis, and make predictions on the storm's path. They will summarize their findings by writing a press release for their local radio station or by producing a report with visuals and graphics for a television broadcast.
Difficulty: beginner


Case Study of the SuperStorm of 1993 (Cycle B)
The purpose of this case study is to provide background on this storm, using surface maps and satellite images to demonstrate its full scope.
Difficulty: beginner


Weather changes along a cold front (Cycle B)
This exercise will demonstrate how weather, i.e. temperature, precipitation and pressure, changes as a cold front passes through the Eastern United States. This exercise will allow you to challenge your understanding about weather changes along a cold front.
Difficulty: intermediate


Weather forecasting for elementary students (Cycle C)
Here is an interactive online lesson on weather forecasting for elementary students. Students learn about forecasting tricks and are encouraged to try these tricks on their own. Modern forecasting is explained, emphasizing the technology and science used. An online quiz reviews facts given in the lesson.
Difficulty: beginner


Weather or Not? (Cycle C)
This module asks student groups to monitor the weather environment and make predictions about the weather up to 48 hours before special outdoor events. The module is part of an online series from NASA's Classroom of the Future, which emphasizes an integrated approach to environmental Earth science education through problem-based learning, For grades 5-12.
Difficulty: intermediate




  • Science
    National Science Education Standards - Science Content Standards The science content standards outline what students should know, understand, and be able to do in the natural sciences over the course of K-12 education.
      The understandings and abilities associated with the following concepts and processes need to be developed throughout a student's educational experiences:
      • Systems, order, and organization
      • Earth and Space Science (Std D)
        • Changes in earth and sky
      • Earth and Space Science (Std D)
        • Structure of the earth system
      • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives (Std F)
        • Populations, resources, and environments
        • Natural hazards
        • Risks and benefits
        • Science and technology in society
      • Physical Science (Std B)
        • Interactions of energy and matter
      • Earth and Space Science (Std D)
        • Energy in the earth system
      • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives (Std F)
        • Natural and human-induced hazards
        • Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges
      • History and Nature of Science (Std G)
        • Science as a human endeavor
  • Mathematics
    Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), 2000 This set of Standards proposes the mathematics concepts that all students should have the opportunity to learn. Each of these ten Standards applies across all grades, prekindergarten through grade 12. Even though each of these ten Standards applies to all grades, emphases and expectations will vary both within and between the grade bands (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12). For instance, the emphasis on number is greatest in prekindergarten through grade 2, and by grades 9-12, number receives less instructional attention. Also the total time for mathematical instruction will be divided differently according to particular needs in each grade band - for example, in the middle grades, the majority of instructional time would address algebra and geometry.
      Mathematics instructional programs should include attention to data analysis, statistics, and probability so that all students—
      • pose questions and collect, organize, and represent data to answer those questions;
      • interpret data using methods of exploratory data analysis;
      • develop and evaluate inferences, predictions, and arguments that are based on data;
  • Geography
    Geography for Life: National Geography Standards, 1994
      Physical processes shape Earth’s surface and interact with plant and animal life to create, sustain, and modify ecosystems. The geographically informed person knows and understands:
      • The physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth’s surface
      The physical environment is modified by human activities, largely as a consequence of the ways in which human societies value and use Earth’s natural resources, and human activities are also influenced by Earth’s physical features and processes. The geographically informed person knows and understands:
      • How physical systems affect human systems
      • The changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution, and importance of resources
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