Friday, August 25, 2017

Teaching Geography with Hurricane Harvey

Flooding in Texas in an area the size of New Jersey

Hurricane Harvey:  Teaching Geography Via the Weather

Social studies teachers looking for innovative methods for teaching geography and developing geographic literacy may consider using live weather events to familiarize students with places around the United States and the world.  Hurricane Harvey in the Gulf of Mexico is threatening the coast of Texas, and teachers could monitor conditions of the storm while teaching students geography in an interesting and timely way.

FlightRadar 24 is a live flight tracker that shows air traffic around the world in real time.  Radar data and flight schedules and status data from airlines and airports combine to offer a unique way of looking at a map.  Users can click on individual aircraft to view flight information.

Teachers can zoom in to a region, like the Gulf of Mexico, to see how flight paths have been affected by Hurricane Harvey.  Aircraft are avoiding the eastern coast of Texas and the western part of the Gulf of Mexico.  Petroleum company helicopters can be viewed traveling to rigs located in the Gulf (CVR above).  And often a “hurricane hunter” plane deployed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) can be seen flying in zigzag formations through the hurricane to gather important weather data (above, click to enlarge).

Live cameras provide another interesting view of events like Hurricane Harvey.  Teachers can access live cameras of cities in the path of the hurricane using traffic cameras or Weather Bug, and then access live weather radar to discuss the conditions and direction of the storm.  This is a good opportunity for teachers to discuss other geographic factors like time zones, topography, wind currents, flood plains, and beach erosion.  And teachers could return to the live cameras at a later date to show students any damages or just to view the area in normal conditions.  (Note: Storms can cause the live cameras to shut down).

The National Hurricane Center is another useful resource for teachers.  The site includes live weather radar and maps of wind speeds, wind history, rainfall potential, and storm surge inundation.  The site also provides information, satellite images, and damage costs of historic storms like Katrina and Andrew.

And the Weather Channel is another excellent resource.  Meteorologists describe how hurricanes are formed in the warm waters of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico and explain the eye and eye wall, storm surges, and other factors.  And live coverage allows viewers to see the effects of the storm.

The Dartmouth Flood Observatory also provides access to updated maps related to flooding events around the world.  The two bottom maps above depict the scale of the flooding caused from Hurricane Harvey.  Teachers can access maps on the site to discuss the record-breaking flood events of August 2017.

For more information about using unique cartographic resources in the classroom, please contact the GIS Research and Map Collection at 765-285-1097.

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