ALEX Learning Activity


Hurricane Tracking Activity

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  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Virginia Hall
System:Mobile County
School:Mary G Montgomery High School
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 1877
Hurricane Tracking Activity
Digital Tool/Resource:
Padlet with Earth and Space Activities
Web Address – URL:

This activity utilizes maps and other visualizations to analyze past NOAA hurricane data.  It incorporates graphing wind speed and pressure to note the correlation between the two. Finally, it will show the relationship between hurricane category and damage.  

This activity results from the ALEX Resource Gap Project.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
MA2015 (2016)
Grade: 9-12
Algebra I
4 ) Use units as a way to understand problems and to guide the solution of multistep problems; choose and interpret units consistently in formulas; choose and interpret the scale and the origin in graphs and data displays. [N-Q1]

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
M.AAS.Q.HS.4- Using real world models, express quantities of measurement to the given precision. (limited to measurements of length (inch, 1/2 inch, 1/4 inch), weight (pounds, kilograms (tenth of a unit), volume (cup, 1/2 cup, 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, liter), temperature (degree), velocity (mph, kmph).

Literacy Standards (6-12)
LIT2010 (2010)
Grade: 9-10
Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects
7 ) Translate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form (e.g., a table or chart) and translate information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words.

Unpacked Content
Strand: Reading (RST)
CCR Anchor:
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • translate science / technical information read in words to a visual form
  • translate science / technical information expressed visually or mathematically into words
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • translate
  • quantitative information
  • technical information
  • text
  • visual form
  • table
  • chart
  • information expressed visually
  • information expressed mathematically
  • equation
Students know:
  • common visual forms for science / technical information (e.g., table, chart, flowchart, diagram, or model)
  • techniques for understanding quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text
  • techniques for translating quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form
  • techniques for translating information expressed visually or mathematically into words
Students are able to:
  • translate science / technical information read in words into visual form (e.g., table or chart)
  • translate science / technical information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words
Students understand that information expressed in words can be combined with information expressed visually to form a complete understanding of a science / technical topic.
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 9-12
Earth and Space Science
15 ) Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information to verify that weather (e.g., temperature, relative humidity, air pressure, dew point, adiabatic cooling, condensation, precipitation, winds, ocean currents, barometric pressure, wind velocity) is influenced by energy transfer within and among the atmosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere.

a. Analyze patterns in weather data to predict various systems, including fronts and severe storms.

b. Use maps and other visualizations to analyze large data sets that illustrate the frequency, magnitude, and resulting damage from severe weather events in order to predict the likelihood and severity of future events.

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
E12.10b: This energy transfer is influenced by dynamic processes such as cloud cover, atmospheric gases, and Earth's rotation, as well as static conditions such as the positions of mountain ranges, oceans, seas, and lakes.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Analyzing and Interpreting Data; Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns; Systems and System Models; Energy and Matter
Disciplinary Core Idea: Earth's Systems
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Compare and contrast the means of describing weather conditions.
  • Classify the variety of instruments that measure weather conditions.
  • Use the concept of energy flow to show how air masses and fronts create weather.
  • Analyze a sequence of weather maps for a region over time to show the consistency of weather models.
  • Depict graphically the flow of energy throughout the stages of thunderstorm development.
  • Communicate information detailing Earth's major climate zones.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • weather
  • air temperature
  • humidity
  • fronts
  • air pressure
  • storms
  • precipitation
  • wind direction
  • wind speed
  • air masses
  • barometer
  • thermometer
  • anemometer
  • wind vane
  • rain gauge
  • psychrometer
  • front
  • warm front
  • cold front
  • air mass
  • highs
  • lows
  • isobar
  • tornado
  • lightning
  • thunder
  • hurricane
  • climate zone
  • temperate
  • tropical
  • polar
Students know:
  • Weather is the condition of the atmosphere at a given place and time.
  • Weather and climate are shaped by complex interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things.
  • Energy is redistributed globally through ocean currents and also through atmospheric circulation.
  • Sunlight heats Earth's surface, which in turn heats the atmosphere.
  • Temperature patterns, together with the Earth's rotation and the configuration of continents and oceans, control the large-scale patterns of atmospheric circulation.
  • Winds gain energy and water vapor content as they cross hot ocean regions, which can lead to tropical storms.
  • Prediction Center maps provide weather forecasts and climate patterns based on analyses of observational data.
Students are able to:
  • Analyze data in patterns to predict the outcome of an event.
  • Analyze data models to predict outcome of an event.
Students understand that:
  • The complex patterns of the changes and the movement of water in the atmosphere, determined by winds, landforms, and ocean temperatures and currents, are major determinants of local weather patterns.
  • Weather, hydrologic, and climate forecasts and warnings protect life and property.
  • Weather, hydrologic, and climate forecasts and warnings protect life and property.

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.ESS.HS.15- Identify weather conditions, including temperature, wind speed, humidity, and severe weather events (e.g., tornadoes, hurricanes, floods).

Learning Objectives:

The student will be able to collect data on 3 past hurricanes and plot their track on a hurricane tracking chart. 

The student will be able to graph wind speed vs pressure of the 3 past hurricanes to visually note the pattern that emerges.

The student will be able to explain the relationship between hurricane category and damage that occurs.

The student will be able to relate conditions that might be predictors for future hurricane events.

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  
Before/Engage, During/Explore/Explain

Please click link for complete activity handout.     code: earth

Materials: Atlantic Basin Hurricane Tracking Chart, pencil, paper, graph paper, highlighter, computer, tablet, or phone with Internet capabilities

Part 1: Data Collection

Open the first link. Choose Atlantic Hurricanes from the NOAA archives for 2016. The Hurricanes you are to track are Matthew, Gaston, and Hermine. Click on each hurricane to read the report and collect data. Complete the chart below on each hurricane and then use the tracking map provided to plot each hurricane’s course.  (Use pencil to track the hurricane and then overwrite it with a highlighter to indicate its color. Color code the Hurricane Name in the chart below to correspond to the tracking map color.).  Then go to the second link and complete the rest of the chart. Link 3 will help fill in the chart for part 3.

Link 1:

Link 2:

Link 3:


Hurricane Name: Matthew 

(this is a brief overview of activity - see Hurrican Activity handout for a complete listing of how to do the activity).


Date      Time      Latitude               Longitude            Wind Speed (mph)          Pressure (mb)  


Did it make landfall?       Where did it make landfall?         Estimated cost of damage.


Hurricane Name: Gaston

Date      Time      Latitude               Longitude            Wind Speed (mph)          Pressure (mb)  


Did it make landfall?       Where did it make landfall?        Estimated cost of damage.                                                                                                                                         

Hurricane Name: Hermine 

Date      Time      Latitude               Longitude            Wind Speed (mph)          Pressure (mb)  


Did it make landfall?       Where did it make landfall?         Estimated cost of damage.                                                                                                                                         

Part 2: Graphing:

Now graph the daily Wind Speed vs Pressure for each hurricane. (Use a pencil to graph the hurricane (daily wind speed and pressure) and then overwrite it with a highlighter to indicate its color. Color code the hurricane's name to correspond to the tracking color.)  


1.            Plot on graph paper, pressure (mb)  on the x axis and wind speed (mph) on the y axis.

2.            Ensure that you scale appropriately, correctly label the X and Y-axes, and properly title the graph.

Part 3: Saffir Simpson Scale:

Complete the following chart using Link 3 from above. 

Saffir Simpson Scale: The hurricanes above produced catastrophic damage during their lifespan.  Some damage came from tornadoes.  Please complete the chart below to understand the tornado categories and damage produced in each scale.  (Disclaimer: Not all tornadoes come from hurricanes and not all hurricanes produce tornadoes.) You will use this information to assist in answering the questions.

Category              Winds (mph)       Damage               Examples






Assessment Strategies:


1.            What is the correlation between wind speed and pressure of a hurricane? POSSIBLE ANSWER: Wind speed in a hurricane is a direct relationship to surface pressure. The graph created shows the relationship between surface pressure and sustained wind speed as a causal linear relationship.

2.            What difference does the timing of the tide make on the damage done by a hurricane? POSSIBLE ANSWER: If the tide is out when the hurricane hits land, the storm surge will be lower than if the tide is in when the hurricane hits. Conversely if the tide is high when the hurricane hits land, the storm surge will be increased and the possibility of an increase in damage also increases.

3.            Describe the types of damage that would happen if a hurricane with an intensity of 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale hit Mobile. POSSIBLE ANSWER: A category 3 hurricane has winds of 111-129 mph. According to the National Hurricane Center, “Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.”

4.            What three things must occur for a hurricane to get stronger? POSSIBLE ANSWER: (1) Ocean surface temperatures warmer than 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius) (2) Low vertical wind shear (3) Warm moist air and a 4th condition could possibly be (4) Ocean area along the projected storm track

5.            What time of year do most Atlantic hurricanes form? POSSIBLE ANSWER: June 1 to November 30 is hurricane season with the peak of the season being from mid-August to late October. However, deadly hurricanes can occur anytime in the hurricane season.

6.            Where do Atlantic hurricanes form? POSSIBLE ANSWER: Hurricanes can form in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the tropical Atlantic Ocean as far east as the Cape Verde Islands. The role the Sahara Desert plays in hurricane development is related to the easterly winds (coming from the east) generated from the differences between the hot, dry desert in north Africa and the cooler, wetter, and forested coastal environment directly south in west Africa. The result is a strong area of high altitude winds commonly called the African Easterly Jet. Throughout most of the year, these waves typically form every two to three days in a region near Cape Verde (due west of Africa), but in the summer to early fall is when conditions become favorable for tropical cyclone development. Not all hurricanes that form in the Atlantic originate near Cape Verde, but most of the major hurricanes that have impacted the continental United States have originated from this area.

7.            Why causes a hurricane to die out? POSSIBLE ANSWER: A hurricane dies down when it loses its energy source, which is usually warm water at the surface of the ocean. This loss of energy can occur as a hurricane passes over cooler water or over a land mass.  If no further energy is fed into the hurricane it will weaken and die.

8.           What can be predicted about future hurricanes based on previous hurricane patterns and trends (think: water temperature, wind patterns, humidity, pressure, etc.…)? POSSIBLE ANSWER: Every year around April the meteorologists start talking about how many named storms are predicted for the season and how many hurricanes are expected to make landfall.  Scientists can predict the number of named storms and their breakdown by intensity (i.e. the number of hurricanes, tropical storms, intense hurricanes, etc.).  They can also predict approximate wind speeds and intensity for sustained winds.  These can be easily calculated using elementary statistics.  Compared to past seasons, the sustained wind speed follows the Poisson distribution with fairly consistent accuracy.  Named storms are typically predicted based on past occurrences and current measures of factors in the climate.  At the beginning of the season these are only labeled as probabilities. 

Advanced Preparation:

Teacher needs to complete the entire  activity in advance to ensure that they are able to answer the students' questions as they encounter trouble. 

Teacher needs to review How to Read NOAA page in advance of activity to ensure that they can answer students' questions.

Teacher needs to have Atlantic Basin tracking charts available for each student/partner before the activity starts.

Teacher needs to provide graphing paper prior to the start of the activity.

Teacher needs to review the BYOD/Internet acceptable use policies established by the teacher, school, district, or variation of the above.

Variation Tips (optional):

Teacher can assign each student/group a different set of hurricanes from various years to see if the trend follows.

This activity can also be a live tracking activity for the fall semester (during hurricane season). It would be a daily activity that would continue for a few months.

Notes or Recommendations (optional):


  Keywords and Search Tags  
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