Kids QuestionsWHY IS THE SKY BLUE?
The sun shines white and black light to our planet. The white light has all the colors in it. In our upper atmosphere, we have dust particles and oxygen molecules. The white light meaning all of the colors in a rainbow shines through the upper levels of the atmosphere and the blue light scatters across the entire planet. That is why our sky is blue. Now, during sunrise and sunset, the light traveling through atmosphere is longer at the horizon, then if you were to look up high in the sky. There are more dust particles and oxygen molecules at the horizon, so that is why you see such pretty colors like red, oranges and yellows.
WHAT IS WEATHER?
The weather is just the state of the atmosphere at any time, including things such as temperature, precipitation, air pressure and cloud cover. Daily changes in the weather are due to winds and storms. Seasonal changes are due to the Earth rotating around the sun.
WHAT CAUSES WEATHER?
Because the Earth is round and not flat, the Sun's rays don't fall evenly on the land and oceans. The Sun shines more directly near the equator bringing these areas more warmth. However, the polar regions are at such an angle to the Sun that they get little or no sunlight during the winter, causing colder temperatures. These differences in temperature create a restless movement of air and water in great swirling currents to distribute heat energy from the Sun across the planet. When air in one region is warmer than the surrounding air, it becomes less dense and begins to rise, drawing more air in underneath. Elsewhere, cooler denser air sinks, pushing air outward to flow along the surface and complete the cycle.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP MY CHILD OVERCOME HIS FEAR OF SEVERE WEATHER?
I get this question a lot. I would recommend buying your son a NOAA Weather Radio. There are a life saving tool and its good to have one anyway. They are about $30 and you can get them at Target or Radio Shack. Have him help you set it up. The radio will alert you of approaching bad weather. So, he doesn't have to worry about the changing weather unless the radio goes off and names your county. It will alert you of Severe Thunderstorm Watches and Warnings, as well as Tornado Watches and Warnings. A 'watch' means that the ingredients for severe storms are in the atmosphere and you need to 'watch' the sky. A 'warning' means that severe storms are happening. Watches keep us alert and on our toes, while warnings mean we take the necessary action. By explaining all of this to him, he will know the difference. If severe weather is approaching, then follow the steps of your family disaster plan. For more information on this, check out the link below.
WHY DO WE HAVE SEASONS?
As the Earth spins on its axis, producing night and day, it also moves about the Sun in an elliptical (elongated circle) orbit that requires 365 1/4 days to complete. The Earth's axis is tilted at 23.5 degrees and is why we have seasons. When the Earth's axis points towards the Sun, it is summer for that hemisphere. When the Earth's axis points away, winter can be expected.
HOW BIG ARE RAINDROPS?
Raindrops are much smaller than we think! They are actually smaller than a centimeter. Raindrops range from 1/100 inch (.0254 centimeter) to 1/4 inch (.635 centimeter) in diameter.
WHAT IS A TORNADO?
A tornado begins as a funnel cloud with spinning columns of air that drop down from a severe thunderstorm. When they reach the ground they become tornadoes. Tornadoes are between 300 and 2,000 feet wide and travel at speeds of 20 to 45 miles per hour. They usually only last a few minutes, but their spinning winds, up to 300 miles per hour, can lift houses into the air and rip trees from the ground.
WHY ARE CLOUDS WHITE?
Clouds are white because they reflect the light of the sun. Light is made up of colors of the rainbow and when you add them all together you get white. The sun appears a yellow color because it sends out more yellow light than any other color. Clouds reflect all the colors the exact same amount so they look white.
WHY DOES IT RAIN?
We get rain when there is an area of disturbance, usually associated with a low-pressure system. The water vapor in the clouds creates droplets and those droplets keep getting bigger and bigger until the fall. When they fall, it creates rain!
HOW CAN YOU TELL WHAT TIME IT IS BY LOOKING AT THE SUN?
Because the sun ALWAYS rises in the east and sets in the west, you can tell the time just by looking at where the sun is. When you look east and the sun is on the horizon that means its approximately 6:00am. When the sun is directly above your head that means its noon. When you look to the west and the sun is on the horizon that means its approximately 6:00pm.
WHY DO WE GET MORE SUNLIGHT IN THE SUMMER THAN IN THE WINTER?
You might not have noticed this, but the Earth tilts over slightly. If you have a globe at home or in school, you can see that the line between north and south poles, that goes through the center of the Earth, isn't vertical. It's actually tilting over by about 23 degrees. In our summer, the north pole is pointing towards the Sun so the Sun rises and sets roughly from due east to due west. In winter, the Earth is on the other side of the Sun so the North Pole is pointing away from the Sun. This means the Sun rises and sets more towards the southeast and southwest. You might notice this as you look out of the window. Think back to how high in the sky the sun was during the summer. Compare this to where the sun is during the winter and you'll see it's much lower down towards the horizon. Because the sun is lower down on the horizon, there's less time for it to travel between horizons. There's less distance for it to travel so the sun rises later and sets earlier meaning there's less daylight.
HOW DO TORNADOES FORM?
Tornadoes are truly a mystery. Basically, they start as a horizontal column of air that rotates. For some reason, some of these turn vertical. Meteorologists are still unsure why this is. Once they turn vertical, they turn into a funnel cloud. As soon as they touch the ground, they become a tornado.
WHAT MAKES CLOUDS FORM RAIN?
Cloud drops form when warm air cools and the water in the air condenses. With lots of drops and movement (winds and currents) the drops bump and merge until heavy enough for gravity to pull out the drops as rain.
HOW DO HURRICANES FORM?
Hurricanes form in warm ocean water from an area of low pressure. Once the low starts to spin counter-clockwise, it can gain a tremendous amount of strength, but it can only do this if conditions in the atmosphere are right for development.
WHY DO CLOUDS TURN GRAY?
Clouds are made up of tiny water droplets or ice crystals, usually a mixture of both. The water and ice scatter all light, making clouds appear white. If the clouds get thick enough or high enough all the light above does not make it through, hence the gray or dark look. Also, if there are lots of other clouds around, their shadow can add to the gray or multicolored gray appearance.
WHY DO CLOUDS FLOAT?
A cloud forms when air heated by the sun. As it rises, it slowly cools it reaches the saturation point and water condenses, forming a cloud. As long as the cloud and the air that its made of is warmer than the outside air around it, it floats!
HOW IS HAIL MADE?
Hail is created when small water droplets are caught in the updraft of a thunderstorm. These water droplets are lifted higher and higher into the sky until they freeze into ice. Once they become heavy, they will start to fall. If the smaller hailstones get caught in the updraft again, they will get more water on them and get lifted higher in the sky and get bigger. Once they get lifted again, they freeze and fall. This happens over and over again until the hailstone is too heavy and then falls to the ground.
WHAT CAUSES THUNDER?
Thunder is caused by lightning. When a lightning bolt travels from the cloud to the ground it actually opens up a little hole in the air, called a channel. Once then light is gone the air collapses back in and creates a sound wave that we hear as thunder. The reason we see lightning before we hear thunder is because light travels faster than sound!
IS IT TRUE THAT YOU CAN USE THUNDER TO TELL HOW FAR AWAY A STORM IS?
Yes, you can use thunder to tell how far away a storm is. Next time you see a storm, count the number of seconds between when you see the lightning and hear the thunder. Take the number of seconds and divide by 5 and that will tell you how far away the storm is in miles.
WHY CAN YOU SEE YOUR BREATH WHEN ITS COLD OUTSIDE?
Your breath is reasonably warm and humid and it has invisible water vapor as a large component of the gas. Warm moist air meeting the cooler air outside the body causes the invisible water vapor to condense the cooler air outside are visible and form the cloud that you see. The relative humidity which depends upon water content and temperature goes to 100%. As the breath gets further from the person's face the water content dilutes and the relative humidity goes down and the droplets go back into vapor form.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EL NINO AND LA NINA?
El Nino is the warming of the equatorial waters in the Pacific Ocean, while La Nina is the cooling of the equatorial waters in the Pacific Ocean. Both of these have an impact on our weather, depending on where you live.
HOW DO WE GET SNOW?
We get snow when there is an area of disturbed weather, usually associated with a low-pressure system. The water vapor in the clouds creates droplets and those droplets keep getting bigger and bigger until the fall. When temperatures get below freezing, it creates snow!
WHY DO CLOUDS FORM AT DIFFERENT HEIGHTS IN THE ATMOSPHERE?
The characteristics of clouds are dictated by the elements available, including the amount of water vapor, the temperatures at that height, the wind, and the interplay of other air masses.
HOW DOES LIGHTNING FORM?
The most commonly accepted theory of how lightning forms is that, when ice and water particles collide in a cloud, they are charged. Lighter particles tend to be positively charged and end up near the top of the cloud, while negatively charged particles are near the bottom of the cloud. So in your typical storm cloud, the negative charge at the bottom of the cloud enhances the positive charge at the ground. The cloud wants to "complete the circuit" and creates lightning. Each bolt has the potential to be as strong as a billion volts with temperatures as high as 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Because a lightning bolt is so hot, it superheats the air around it. The air particles quickly expand and contract, so fast that they break the speed of sound and create a sound wave that is called thunder.
WHY DO WE SEE LIGHTNING BEFORE WE HEAR THUNDER?
We see lightning first, because light travels faster than sound. Think of it like this, when you're watching fireworks, what happens first, seeing the bright lights of the fireworks or hearing the loud boom? Of course, you see the fireworks and then you hear the boom from them. Lightning and thunder work in the same manner.
WHAT CAUSES THE NORTHERN LIGHTS?
Aurora occur due to energetic particles from a solar storm, which cause the gases in the upper atmosphere to glow. It takes place between 50-100 miles above the Earth and can last anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours. Aurora are most common in polar regions.
WHAT CAUSES THE WIND TO BLOW?
As the sun warms the Earth's surface, the atmosphere warms too. Some parts of the Earth receive direct rays from the sun all year and are always warm. Other places receive indirect rays, so the climate is colder. Warm air, which weighs less than cold air, rises. Then cool air moves in and replaces the rising warm air. This movement of air is what makes the wind blow.
WHY ARE YOU LESS LIKELY TO SEE STATIC ELECTRICITY IN THE SUMMER?
In the summer, our dew points are much higher due to warm and humid air coming from the Gulf of Mexico and that is why we have humid weather. In the winter, our dew points are much lower due to cold and direr air coming from Canada. The lower the dew point the better it is to create static electricity, so that's why you see it more in the winter.
WHAT IS GLOBAL WARMING?
Global warming refers to an average increase in the Earth's temperature, which in turn causes changes in climate. A warmer Earth may lead to changes in rainfall patterns, a rise in sea level, and a wide range of impacts on plants, wildlife, and humans. When scientists talk about the issue of climate change, their concern is about global warming caused by human activities, like pollution.
WHY DO THE LEAVES CHANGE COLOR?
During the spring and summer the leaves have served as factories where most of the foods necessary for the tree's growth are manufactured. This food-making process takes place in the leaf in numerous cells containing chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green color. Along with the green pigment are yellow to orange to red pigments as well. Most of the year these colors are masked by great amounts of green coloring. But in the fall, because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange to red colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor. The best time to enjoy the autumn color would be on a clear, dry, and cool day.
CAN ANIMALS PREDICT THE WEATHER?
If your dog always comes inside right before it rains, you may think that animals can predict the weather. It's probably more accurate to say that animals react to certain environmental signals that accompany weather changes, not to the weather itself. A prevalent opinion is that animals can detect certain events, like earthquakes, as soon as they happen, even if the originating event is a great distance away. The majority of researchers say that animals make greater use of their existing five senses, especially when compared to humans. The most critical sense is hearing.
HOW CAN A CHILD OVERCOME THEIR FEAR OF STORMS?
Mrs. Stewart, Elementary School Teacher
In the case of thunder and lightening phobias, children who are excessively afraid may carefully monitor the daily weather, and may refuse to participate in activities such as sports or other outdoor activities if there is even the slightest cloud in the sky. For these children, the help of a child psychologist can be extremely important to help the child return to their everyday routines without avoiding things. There are several techniques that have been used by psychologists to help children with such fears of thunder and lightening. First, therapists who are carefully trained in how to conduct relaxation therapy may help teach children to relax during a thunderstorm. Children are also often thought to readjust their anxious thoughts about thunderstorms and to obtain accurate information about when to be concerned, how to keep safe, and when it is okay NOT to worry. It is also important that children practice these skills during storms. Although therapists unfortunately do not have the power over mother nature to cause a thunderstorm right in time for a therapy session, there are other ways that storms have been re-created so that children can learn to face their fears. Children can purchase CD's of thunderstorms, which are available in most music stores. Children are encouraged to practice positive coping skills while listening to thunder storms. Several museums have lightening exhibits where the phenomenon of lightening is explained, and created in the museum for children to learn about it. In addition, other techniques, such as having a therapist use a strobe light while the child listens to a lightening and thunder tape, can help children re-create the feeling of being in a storm. Ultimately, exposure to real storms can help children see that if they take proper precautions, they do not need to be excessively afraid.