Spring weather watch for young meteorologists

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By Beth Pinyerd
For the Opelika
Observer

In March, as winter starts to dwindle, families love to go outside to enjoy recreation, relaxation and picnicking.
Spring is such a pleasant time to be outside and is a perfect season to teach your children about how to watch the weather.
What is weather? Explain to your child that weather is the condition of air here on earth around us.
But we cannot see air. Guide your child in understanding that air is felt when the wind blows, fan your child in order for them to understand the concept of air. Blow a balloon up to show that air takes up space. Explain to your child that air is all around us even though we don’t see it.
Tell your child that the sun is responsible for heating up air or the atmosphere, which causes water to evaporate into the air and the air rises. The way I explain evaporation to children is to use a sponge and draw a wet stripe on the board. It slowly disappears, then I ask my students where the spot went.
Then, we discuss what they have observed as evaporation. This can be done at home by putting around a quarter of a cup of water outside for several days until you and your child observe that it has evaporated into the atmosphere.
One observation that fascinates the young scientist’s eye is the formation of clouds. Guide your child’s eye to identify three different kinds of clouds.
Cirrus clouds are feathery clouds that look like they have a curl. I tell young children they look like pulled cotton candy. Usually cirrus clouds are associated with fair weather.
Cumulus clouds are heaping clouds. They look like pillows you can jump on. It’s neat to point out to your child these clouds building up for a summer afternoon shower.
Stratus clouds look like layers or blankets and produce rain and drizzle.
Children love to use their imaginations in making different shapes out of clouds. Fog is something your child can observe draping over outside early in the morning.
Other weather events your child can learn about are thunderstorms and lightning in which the rules of not being outside, in a swimming pool or under a tree where lightning can strike should be stressed for your child’s safety.
Waterspouts form over bodies of water, drawing up large columns of water .
One doesn’t want to observe tornadoes. Tornadoes are the most destructive natural phenomena which can reach high speeds.
Dust devils are small tornadoes over land areas. A dust devil draws up dust, leaves and debris. If you find you and your child near one of these, make sure dust or sand doesn’t get in your child’s eyes.
The most beautiful sight to observe on a spring afternoon is an arching rainbow. Explain to your children that rainbows are caused by sunlight penetrating raindrops and is broken into the beautiful bands of color of violet, indigo, red, orange, yellow and green. The neatest sight that I have observed as a teacher is to see little ones try to chase a rainbow outside. So many times if a rainbow is low lying, a child can run into a prism of beautiful colors.
Some simple tools that children can use to measure and observe weather are thermometers to measure temperature and rain gauges to measure rainfall. Thermometers are inexpensive and your child can read how hot or cold it is. A rain gauge could be a bucket that you can use a ruler to measure an amount of rain.
Another family activity is watching a local or national weather station. You would be so surprised at how much your young meteorologist can understand about forecasts and weather events on a map.
So many times, beginning in spring but especially during the summer when it is hot, a child may asks why the air feels wet. Explain to them that the “wetness” in the air is called humidity. It’s not too big of a word for your little meteorologist to put in their weather vocabulary!
It is hoped this article will help you begin to be happy weather watchers during these spring months which can extend into summer.
It is a fun learning experience that you and your child can enjoy together.

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