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In the Eye of the Storm: A Case Study in Natural Disasters


Author(s)

Rachael A. Lancor
Department of Chemistry, Geoscience, & Physics
Edgewood College
rlancor@edgewood.edu

Abstract

This case study of Hurricane Katrina chronicles a college student's adventures with the Hurricane Hunters, a group of people from the Air Force Reserve who fly into the middle of hurricanes to collect atmospheric data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Students learn how to predict the path of the hurricane using satellite images and about physics concepts involved in hurricane formation, such as fluid dynamics and thermodynamics. Students also explore societal issues surrounding natural disasters. This case is intended for an introductory physics course, but has also been used for related courses, such as environmental geology.


Objectives

  • Introduce fluid dynamics and thermodynamics.
  • See a practical application of physics and learn to recognize physical science concepts in news stories.
  • Understand the process of hurricane formation and how it is governed by fluid dynamics and thermodynamics.
  • Understand how to use storm data to predict the path of hurricanes and the damage that could result.
  • Understand the tension between science and politics.

Keywords

Hurricane Katrina; hurricane; natural disaster; thermodynamics; fluids; fluid dynamics; Carnot engine; Coriolis effect; category storm; NOAA; New Orleans; Louisiana; Florida

Topical Areas

Policy issues, Social issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, High school

Format

PDF, PowerPoint

Type / Methods

Directed, Discussion

Language

English

Subject Headings

Atmospheric Science  |   Civil Engineering  |   Climatology / Meteorology  |   Physics  |  


Date Posted

3/11/2008

Teaching Notes

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Supplemental Materials

This case includes an optional PowerPoint presentation (file below).

  
  hurricane_hunters.ppt

Answer Key

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