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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.

 

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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Have you ever wondered what a vortex is and how natural vortices including tornadoes, whirlpools and cyclones move the way they do? Try the tornado in a bottle experiment to find out. A vortex is a whirling mass of water, air or fire that creates a visible tornado-like column or spiral. A vortex can be created with the help of angular momentum, surface tension, centripetal force and fluid displacement. This experiment requires the use of super glue and a drill, so kids – don’t try this without an adult!

Materials

  • Two 2 liter plastic soft drink bottles
  • Water
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Glitter (optional)
  • Two bottle lids
  • Super glue
  • Electrical Tape
  • Drill

Process

  1. Fill one bottle ¾ full with water.
  2. Add some food coloring and glitter. (Optional)
  3. Use the super glue (with a parent’s help) to glue the two bottle lids together, flat sides touching.
  4. Let dry.
  5. Drill a hole (with a parent’s help) through the center of both lids with a 9 mm drill bit.
  6. Screw in one side of the bottle lid to the bottle filled with water. Then, screw the empty bottle onto the other side of the connecting lids.
  7. Add some electrical tape around the connection to reinforce.
  8. Turn the bottles over and observe the movement of water from one bottle to the next.
  9. Try again, but this time give the bottle a few spirals as you set it down. Notice what happens this time.

Explanation

The first time you turn the bottles over, the surface tension of the water tries to keep the water from flowing down. The weight of the water above it, however, forces the water to bubble up and break through into the second bottle. This is what makes the BLOOP BLOOP sound you hear as it happens several times. Each time this happens, pressure builds up in the bottom of the bottle until the air is forced up into the top bottle over and over until the top bottle is empty.

The second time, the water was directed into a spiral by your swirling motion creating a vortex into the bottom bottle. Gravity works to pull the spinning water down through the hole into the bottom bottle. The angular momentum of the spinning water makes the water at the center of the vortex spin faster than the water closer to the edge of the bottle creating a whirlpool effect.

The vortex created by the swirl lets the air pass through the center of the vortex without disrupting the flow of the water. When you combine this with the forces of water pressure and the gravity force, a centripetal force, or spinning force, makes the water swirl. Notice that the water near the bottom moves faster than the water at the top. The higher the speed, the steeper the curve needed to allow the spinning motion.


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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.
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