Science Station

Now Open on Level 4

How many times have you said to yourself “I can predict the weather better than those guys can”? Well, now’s your chance. At the WFTV Severe Weather Center 9, you can become a meteorologist for the day and show “those guys” how it’s really done!

Located within the exhibit Our Planet, Our Universe, the Weather Center is a working replica of the actual set used on WFTV’s weather forecasts. You’ll learn how to put a weather forecast together using all of the tools a meteorologist uses. Then, when your forecast is ready, you can practice delivering it in front of a green screen – putting you right in the action as WFTV’s newest chief meteorologist!  Take a look at some of the great stations you’ll be working with…

  • Introduction: WFTV Chief Meteorologist Tom Terry and his team have put together a series of videos that bring the profession to life.  You’ll see what a day in the life of a meteorologist is really like, learn about careers in the field and even see how Doppler radar works.
  • Weather Basics: As you pass through the exhibit, the first stop is the weather basics wall.  Here, Tom and his team explain what weather is all about – from cold fronts to rainbows and describe just what makes some of our weather severe.
  • Current Conditions: See what the weather is like outside the Science Center using WFTV’s forecasting equipment located right on our roof!
  • Create Your Own Forecast: Choose from a variety of weather conditions and have the WFTV team report your forecast.
  • Report Your Own Forecast: Now that you’ve had the training and seen the experts, it’s time to do a forecast of your own!  Stand in front of a green screen and report the weather just like the pros while your family watches you on TV!

In a city like Orlando, where weather is so important to how we live, the WFTV Severe Weather Center 9 will give you everything you need to know about how the weather happens and how the experts bring it to you.

 

The following is the second of a three part series on wildfires...

High winds only serve to exacerbate the problem of wildfires due to its unpredictability and the fact that wind supplies oxygen to fuel the fire, further dry the fuels and push the fire to spread across greater distances. Did you know that wildfires alone can produce winds that are ten times stronger than the winds surrounding them? For this reason, fires are a formidable force.

Not only do high winds promote fire growth, the presence of a fire can actually increase wind speeds. These winds can throw embers into the air and spread them causing “spotting.” Not only that, but strong gusts can hurl the embers into tree tops creating a “crown fire.” For example, the Las Conchas wildfire in New Mexico is currently running, crowning and spotting up to a half mile from the head of the fire.

Here's a look at the Las Conchas fire from KRQE in New Mexico:


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Wildfires are a product of temperature, wind and moisture. High temperatures, high winds and low humidity are conditions that are of concern, especially to those in the West now. These are what can be called red flag conditions. Conditions like these contribute to intense fire behavior and rapid fire growth much like what has been seen recently with the Arizona and New Mexico wildfires.

High temperatures are what serve to induce the first spark to the fire. The ground, including plants, sticks and underbrush, absorbs radiant heat from the sun, which serves to heat and dry potential fuels. Warmer temperatures combined with low humidity or dry air allow for fuels to ignite and burn faster, adding to the rate that wildfires spread. For this reason, wildfires tend to rage in the afternoon, when temperatures are hotter. In New Mexico, the Las Conchas wildfire grew to cover over 43,000 acres in a little less than a day.

Note: This is the first in a three part article describing the recent wildfirs in the Western US and what causes wildfires in general.  Check back for the second part on how wind adds to the dangerous mix.


AZ_Map


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Did you know that simply listening to a cricket could tell you more about the weather than you might think?! Mother Nature offers its own built-in thermometer-the cricket.  Simply listening to the frequency of a cricket’s chirp and counting the number of chirps in 15 seconds and adding 37 will provide you with a rough estimate of the outside temperature.

The reason these crickets are such adept thermometers is because they are cold-blooded creatures. The warmer it is, the faster the crickets are able to rub their legs together. The colder it is, the slower crickets move. That means temperature is the determining factor of their movement and sound-making abilities. All you have to do is use your ears to determine the temperature relative to the cricket’s activity level.

So when you go to bed tonight, listen closely to the crickets chirp outside your window and try figuring out the temperature it is outside.


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Planes are built to endure the most extreme weather conditions including lightening strikes.

Let us dispel the myth that if your plane gets struck by lightning it could spell disaster. This is not true. In fact, a plane getting struck by lightning is a common occurrence in aviation and has little effect on the flight. As far as anyone knows, the odds are that each airliner in the USA will be hit by lightning roughly once a year.

Because most airplanes are made of aluminum, a good natural conductor of electricity, lightening is able to flow along the airplanes outer skin and back into the atmosphere. This coupled with the fact that, all airplanes are required to have a built-in system ensuring that a spark will not ignite fuel or fuel vapor in tanks or fuel lines, makes airplanes adapt well to lightning strikes. During a 1980s lightning research project, NASA flew an F-106B jet into 1,400 thunderstorms and lightning hit it at least 700 times, without any cause for concern. Still, this led to requirements to have built-in lightning protection for electronics as an extra precaution.

Although lightning striking an airplane may seem extreme and potentially disastrous, it really is quite an uneventful phenomena in the aviation community. Planes are designed with many extra precautions to prevent lightening from ruining your travel experience. Rest assured, next time you fly through a lightning storm, just remember, you are flying high and dry through some of the safest front-row seats to one of nature’s most fearsome phenomena.

Planes_in_Lightning


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Have you ever wondered if it is possible to see a rainbow at night? After all, rainbows are generally made from sunlight shining through raindrops. Although seeing a rainbow at night may seem like an odd thing to contemplate, it is possible.

Night rainbows are incredibly rare and often difficult to see, but not impossible. If the moon is bright enough and the atmosphere offers the right conditions, night rainbows, also called moonbows or lunar rainbows, can occur.

Just like a normal rainbow, this phenomenon happens when light is split up into the different colors of the spectrum. When the light bounces off the back of a raindrop, it causes the colorful display of light to streak across the sky.

However, because moonlight is not nearly as bright as the sun, the moonbow appears much dimmer. Without much light for our eyes to take in, moonbows can appear muted and grayish or even ghostly white. Only a full moon, or nearly full moon can produce enough light to make a night rainbow. Even with enough light from a full moon, there still needs to be the right conditions to produce a rain-shower while still having enough breaks in the clouds to allow light through. If you ever get a chance to see one, be sure to take in the beauty the night has to offer and snap a photo.

lunar_rainbow

Image courtesy of Starry Night Skies Photography


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777 E. Princeton Street • Orlando, Florida 32803 • Phone: 407.514.2000 • TTY: 407.514.2005 • Toll Free: 888.OSC.4FUN • Email: gservices@osc.org
  Orlando Science Center is supported by United Arts of Central Florida, host of power2give.org/centralflorida and the collaborative Campaign for the Arts.
This project is funded in part by Orange County Government through the Arts & Cultural Affairs Program. Privacy Policy • Accessibility