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Blog me like a hurricane

October 30, 2012

by Wendy Lovelady and Helen Chappell

What can a museum–a place generally associated with old, dusty stuff–tell you about the weather right now? Well, we do try to keep things as up-to-date as possible around here, but it’s hard to update traditional exhibits for one-time events (no matter how BIG those one time events might be).  The monster storm Sandy is pummeling the East Coast right now, so here are a few ways for you to think like a scientist during the storm.

Satellite image of Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012

NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image of Hurricane Sandy at 2:20 pm EST on October 29, 2012. At that time, the U.S. National Hurricane Center reported that Hurricane Sandy was located about 175 miles south-southeast of New York City and had maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour. Image courtesy NASA.

1. First let’s take a moment to appreciate the wind. Sandy’s swirling winds are mesmerizing, and you can see them here in this real-time map: http://hint.fm/wind

Still image of wind animation

This is a still image of the wind animation from 3 p.m. eastern today. Click through to see the live animation.

This visualization is based on data from the National Weather Service. Taking raw data and presenting it in an attractive visual format is one of the main goals of museum exhibits. This particular site is simple, elegant, and easy to understand, exactly what we hope most exhibits will be. Of course you can bookmark it, but this wind site can also be viewed in one of the Investigate Labs in the Nature Research Center.

2. Water, water everywhere! When scientists see a storm like this, one question they have is how to analyze the water involved–where did it come from? Where does it end up? To that end, they collect precipitation samples and analyze the isotopes of the elements in the water. It’s difficult to collect data from such a large area, so they often request help. If you live in Sandy’s path and you’re willing to collect rain and snow samples for study, go to the SciStarter website to learn more.

Cumulative precipitation map

This NOAA map shows the 24-hour rainfall totals across the country, as of this morning. All that water’s got to go somewhere! Click through to see the most up-to-date map.

3. When in doubt, go to the most reliable source. For weather info, that’s NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Their Environmental Visualization Laboratory has the most recent images from weather satellites, like the geostationary GOES-13 satellite, which updates every 30 minutes. When we develop content for exhibits, resources like these make a world of difference.

4. Stay safe!  Scientists who work in dangerous conditions–whether that means outside in a storm like Sandy or inside a laboratory with toxic chemicals–always take measures to protect themselves.  You should too!

Medical lab protection equipment

Though this getup will probably work better in the lab than it will in a hurricane.  Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Person playing outside during Hurricane Sandy on Staten Island, NY

Don’t do this! Stay inside during a hurricane. Raincoats are no protection from flying debris. Image by Kate Tomlinson, via Flickr Creative Commons (Staten Island, 10/29/12)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kathryn F. permalink
    October 31, 2012 1:34 pm

    Great post! Love the wind map and the opportunity to get involved in Citizen Science!

  2. October 31, 2012 4:21 pm

    Reblogged this on NC Museum of Natural Sciences Blogs and commented:

    by Wendy Lovelady and Helen Chappell

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