Post written by Heidi Fuhrman, Discovery Camp Coordinator.
Daily Discovery: What’s With Weather? – Forecast It!
One minute it’s sunny and the next you can build a snowman! We all experience weather, but what really is weather and how do we predict it? Learn about how meteorologists forecast the weather before building some forecasting tools and setting up a weather station of your own!
For Observation Journal:
- Glass jar
- Balloon or plastic wrap
- Rubber band
- Rubbing alcohol
- Food coloring
- Clay or playdoh
- Pan of hot water, pan of cold water
Make Your Own Weather Journal:
Meteorologists track weather over multiple days to make the best forecasts. Weather data over decades gives us information about a place’s climate. You can track the weather from your home! Use your observation skills and the tools below! Keep your eye out for other Discovery at Home tools you can add to your weather station. Over time you will be able to forecast the weather too!
- Gather your supplies! You’ll need paper (or you can print the handy weather report sheets at the end of this pdf! Make sure to print double sided!) and a pencil/marker. If you want to make a book, you’ll need a stapler or hole punch and string too.
- Fold your paper and cover paper in half. Place your journal paper inside the cover. You can use plain paper or print off our journal pages. Decorate your cover! Attach the journal pages to the cover using stapler or by punching a hole at top and bottom and tying together with string!
- Fill out your observation journal! Try and fill it out at the same time every day to be able to make the most accurate forecasts. After a few days try forecasting the weather. Why did you forecast that? What data did you base your forecast off of?
- Try some of the other activities included here!
Make Your Own Barometer:
A barometer measures atmospheric pressure. Atmospheric pressure is the weight of the atmosphere overhead! Meteorologists track atmospheric pressure because a change in atmospheric pressure means a change in weather. Weather is controlled by changes in air pressure—high and low pressure systems (remember these are represented by “H” and “L” on our weather maps!). High pressure causes air to flow down and fan out near the ground, keeping clouds from forming—so nice weather! When air pressure is low, air flows together and then upward where it gathers, rising, cooling, and forming clouds—stormy weather! You can monitor the atmospheric pressure in your town by building your own barometer! TIP: It won’t be exciting at first, but if you watch for several days, you’ll notice the pressure is changing without
you realizing it!
- Gather your supplies! You’ll need a glass jar, ruler, straw, balloon or plastic wrap, scissors, tape, and a rubber band.
- Cut the long end off the balloon. Cut a small slit in the end of the balloon.
- Stretch the balloon so that it fits over the mouth of the jar. Make sure it’s nice and tight and secure with a rubber band. If you don’t have a balloon use plastic wrap. Make sure it’s not loose or saggy…we need our jar to be sealed nice and tight!
- Tape the end of the straw onto the middle of your balloon lid. A longer straw will make the barometer more accurate. You can put two straws together by cutting a small slit in the end of a straw, squeezing it to make the end smaller, and slipping it into another straw.
- Keep your barometer indoors and in a place where it won’t get bumped. Place a ruler behind your straw to observe it rising and falling.
Observe your barometer for several days and record what you see in your weather journal. Be sure to observe at the same time each day. What do you notice? Does the straw point to the same place on the ruler each day? Is it rising and falling? What does that mean? Remember, a straw rising means increasing pressure— sunny and clear—a straw falling means decreasing pressure—cloudy and stormy!
Make Your Own Thermometer:
A thermometer measures temperature—how hot/cold the atmosphere is. Meteorologists report temperature using Celsius or Fahrenheit. In the U.S. we use Fahrenheit, but most other countries use Celsius. Temperature can tell us important things—for example it can’t snow until it’s below freezing (32°F)—but temperature is also relative (compared to something). A 70° day would feel chilly after a week of 90° weather, but hot after a week of 40° weather! Thermometers are some of the oldest tools we use to understand the weather. Try making your own thermometer and see what you observe!
- Gather your supplies! You’ll need a clear bottle, water, straw, rubbing alcohol, food coloring, and clay (playdoh works too!)
- Start by filling your bottle ¼ of the way with equal parts rubbing alcohol and water. Add a couple drops of food coloring. We’re using red like in a real thermometer. PRO TIP: If you’re not using a clear straw add extra drops. The darker the water, the easier it will be to see it in the straw. Mix in the coloring.
- Form a small clay pancake (we’re using playdoh!) and poke a hold through for your straw. Be sure there is no clay inside your straw!
- Stick your straw into the bottle. The end should be in the liquid but SHOULDN’T touch the bottom of the bottle.
- Secure the straw at the top of the bottle with your clay. Be sure you have a tight seal. Pinch it tight against the straw but don’t crush it. Make sure
the top of your straw is poking out the top and is open to the air.
Note where the water level IN THE STRAW is. Make a mark on the outside of the bottle. You can calibrate your thermometer by noting what the air temperature is (say how warm it is in your home) and noting that next to the mark.
Place your bottle in a pan of hot water. What happens to the water level in the straw? Label the level and temperature. What happens when you take your thermometer out? What happens to the level when you place it in cold water? Label that level and temperature.
Use your new tools to set up a weather station! Observe the weather over the course of a week or two at the same time every day. What do you notice? What patterns do you see?
After a few days of data can you forecast the next few days of weather? Were you right?