Mrs. Kroeber’s class at Three Chopt Elementary

Hello to Mrs. Kroeber’s fourth grade class at Three Chopt Elementary! This is your place to ask questions about your weather map project this week.

Hello to Mrs. Kroeber’s fourth grade class at Three Chopt Elementary!

My name is Dan Goff, and I’m a senior at Virginia Tech, majoring in geography and meteorology. I’ve been fascinated with weather since I was your age; some of my most vivid memories are about weather events that came from when I was about your age. Mrs. Kroeber has told me all about your weather map project, and I look forward to seeing all of the great ideas you’ve come up with.

I know you’ve all got some questions about your projects, and this is the place to ask them. Leave them in the comment section below, and I will respond. Hopefully this will be an educational week for the both of us!

– Dan

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Weather Dan

Dan Goff is now a two-time former Richmonder, having departed the River City yet again in favor of southwest Virginia, where he is working on degrees in geography and meteorology at Virginia Tech. Have a question about the weather or weather-related phenomena?

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. matthew on said:

    is the severe temperatures of a front be in front or behind

    Hi, Matthew! Fronts are used to show what kind of air is moving into a region, and what direction the air mass is moving. Because the fronts are the leading edge of an air mass, they always describe the air that is behind the front. This means that temperatures will be colder behind a cold front compared to in front of it, and they will be warmer behind a warm front than they will in front of it.

    Good luck on your map!

    – Dan

  2. Bralyn on said:

    I am doing a project on weather and I am doing Los Vegas as one cities. I was on a weather website and it said it was supposed to be sunny all week. So I was wondering what front could cause sunny weather. Also this project is for an accurate weather pridicition for fall. My cities are Miami FL, Los Vegas NV and Richmond VA. IF you could help us that would be awesome!

    Bralyn, you’ve done a great job at picking three cities that see very diverse weather in fall. Fronts are used to indicate that there’s a change in weather, and when there’s a change like you would see when a cold front comes through, you typically see clouds. So really, your map for Las Vegas wouldn’t show any kind of front nearby.

    Instead, you want to think about what kind of weather systems are great for clear, sunny skies. I would probably place Las Vegas under an area of high pressure.

    – Dan

    PS – Take a look outside today if you want to see what the sky looks like ahead of a cold front!

  3. Hamza on said:

    What tools do you use to forecast the weather?

    Hamza, this is a really tough question to answer. I use a lot of data from a variety of sources when I’m putting together a forecast.

    The National Weather Service creates an incredible amount of data about the weather around the United States every day. This is usually one of the first things I look at, so I can see what the weather is currently like in a certain place.

    I also make sure to take a look at satellite and radar images, so I can understand if there is any precipitation happening now or likely to occur in the near future. I’ll also take a look at the data that comes back from weather balloon launches, and I’ll look at the maps that are generated by computer models.

    Some of it is intuition, too. There’s more than a little art in weather forecasting, and sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

    Thanks for the great question!

    – Dan

  4. How do you predict weather?

    Josh, this is a tough question, too! Check out my answer to Hamza’s question for some background on some of the tools I use to write forecasts on a day-to-day basis.

    On top of all the various tools I use to write forecasts, I lean a lot on my education, and things I’ve learned both in school and from just watching the weather. A lot of weather forecasting is about recognizing patterns and just spending time understanding some of the math and physics that describe what is happening in the atmosphere.

    One of the cool things that the Internet allows us to do is to read what other people are saying about the weather. You can read the National Weather Service forecasts, along with comments online from your favorite TV meteorologist and other people who write about the weather (like me). There’s always something new to learn about the weather, and one of the best ways to learn is by asking questions.

    Hope this helps answer your question. Forecasting the weather is a complicated process, but it’s something that anyone with an interest can learn.

    – Dan

  5. Amisha on said:

    Hi! Me and Kylie are doing a weather map together. I have a question to ask you. Does every map have color like green for rain? Please answer my question.

    Hi, Amisha! Not all maps have to have color – there are plenty of black and white ones out there – but color definitely makes maps easier to understand.

    If you want to try this for yourself, here’s a way you can try it, with an adult’s permission.

    Go online or take an atlas and pick out a map you really like. Then print or make a black and white photocopy of the map, and compare the two. Is it easier to read the black and white map? Are you still able to understand what all the symbols mean when there is no color?

    Making a black and white map might be easier to do, but having color lets you make a map that is visually appealing, stands out, and can sometimes convey more information than a black and white map. I find that I much prefer having color, especially when looking at weather maps. I bet if you and Kylie put your heads together, you can come up with some great ways to use color in your map.

    – Dan

  6. Zoe and Lida on said:

    Do you know what the weather is like in Carson City, Nevada in the fall?

    Zoe and Lida, I don’t know the answer to your question off the top of my head.

    However, there are some good resources out there that may be able to help you.

    Carson City is served by the National Weather Service forecast office in Reno, Nevada. There’s a climate section there on the left-hand side of the page that may give you the information you need.

    You might also want to do some extra Google searching, if you can’t find what you need at the National Weather Service page. I recommend looking first at the National Climatic Data Center, which is the repository for climate data in the US. That site can be hard to navigate sometimes, though.

    If those don’t work, I’d suggest poking around the Google results some and see what else you can find. Keywords like “climate” and “normals” may help you refine your search some. I’m sure Mrs. Kroebel can help you figure out what sites are trustworthy, too. Good luck on your search!

    – Dan

  7. enoch on said:

    Hello Dan! My name is Enoch and my partner Griffin and I are in Mrs.Kroeber’s class. We have a question for you that will help us with our weather project. What is the average fall temperature in New York when it snows? Please reply back as quickly as possible. Thanks!!!!

    Hi, Enoch! That’s a really great question. It made me stop and think for a minute.

    Generally, the temperature has to be at or below freezing, so you know the average can’t be any more than 32F.

    I’m not sure this is something that could easily be found. There’s some information on the Climate page for the National Weather Service office in New York, but it may not give you the exact answer you’re looking for.

    You might want to ask Mrs. Kroeber to help you email either someone at the office in New York or at the National Climatic Data Center to help you find the answer you need.

    – Dan

  8. Graham on said:

    I am doing a weather project and I was wondering, is this a likely pattern of weather?

    Hi, Graham! Thanks for your question.

    Unfortunately, you haven’t given me enough information to really tell if your idea is likely or not. If you leave another comment telling me more about the city you chose and the pattern you’ve put together, I might be able to give you a better response. I can’t wait to hear all about it!

    – Dan

  9. Lida on said:

    What kind of weather do you get after a high pressure cold front?

    Hi, Lida. What a wonderful question!

    You’ve actually answered part of your question already. A cold front marks the leading edge of a cold air mass moving into an area. So once the cold front passes, temperatures are usually colder. In the fall months, this can be a difference of twenty degrees or more. We saw a temperature drop like this last week.

    If you look at some weather maps, you’ll see that high pressure systems stand alone; they aren’t often attached directly to fronts like areas of low pressure often are. The great thing about highs is that they clear everything out. High pressure keeps clouds from developing, which means skies that are either completely or mostly clear. With clear skies, lots of sunshine gets through, helping temperatures get warmer than they might otherwise during the day. However, at night, without clouds, heat escapes from the surface more than it would with clouds around, so temperatures get colder at night.

    You’ll be able to see some of this happen this week. Watch the high and low temperatures for Richmond this week, and track the difference between them. There’s likely some more clouds and rain coming at the end of this week. Compare the difference between the high and low on the sunny days and on the rainy days and see if there’s any change. You might be surprised at what you find.

    – Dan

  10. These are all great questions so far! Please keep them coming!

    I’m trying to go in and respond to all of them as fast as I can. If I don’t get to yours right away, please don’t worry. I’ll get to it as soon as I can.

  11. Chamanthi on said:

    Why do we have weather?

    Chamanthi, this is a fantastic question.

    Let’s think about it this way: if you’re in the kitchen, and you fill a pot with water, what happens? Nothing, right? The water just sits there. The water is stable and there’s nothing else acting to change it. What happens if you take that pot of water and put it on a hot stove? It starts to heat up, and you see bubbles form and the water begins to boil, right?

    The atmosphere works in a similar, but far more complex way. Our atmosphere is like the pot of water on that stove. If there were no sun sending us heat, there wouldn’t ever be a change. But because we’re getting heat from the sun, our atmosphere respond. Just as important is that the sun doesn’t heat everywhere equally, and different portions of the earth get different amounts of sunlight on different days.

    Now, the atmosphere isn’t going to boil off like that pot of water, but it does react. Heating the air causes it to rise. It’s this motion in the atmosphere that sets off all our weather. It seems really simple, but the atmosphere is described using a network of complex mathematical equations that are used to describe everything from “Why does the wind blow?” to “Will it rain on Wednesday?” Just like throwing a stone in a lake causes ripples, changing one portion of the atmosphere will create ripples of change, sometimes on the order of hundreds or thousands of miles away.

    To summarize: the heating of the earth by the sun causes changes in the atmosphere. What we see as weather is the atmosphere reacting to these changes.

    – Dan

  12. Desmond on said:

    The weather in Richmond went from 70 degrees to 30 degrees in one week . How does weather change so severely in such a short period of time?

    Desmond, the change in temperature last week was thanks to a strong low pressure system that moved from the Great Lakes region into New England and then out to sea. Because air moves counter-clockwise around a low, on the back side of the low some very cold air got pushed down into the United States from Canada. This cold air is what dropped our temperature so sharply last week. In fact, our high temperature dropped 26 degrees between Thursday and Friday. Now that’s chilly!

    – Dan

  13. Hamza on said:

    Thank you for answering my question!

    You’re very welcome! – Dan

  14. How do you get weather pictures from above? Do you use satellites?

    Ken, that’s exactly right! There are a whole fleet of satellites orbiting the earth and taking images of the atmosphere. NASA and NOAA operate many of them that take images of the United States and North America.

    You can find a lot of satellite imagery through the NOAA GOES website.

    The GOES fleet of satellites are geostationary – that means that they’re oriented so that these satellites look at one place. There’s another fleet of satellites called POES that follow a polar orbit around the earth. Each satellite flies over the north pole, then takes images of one side of the earth as it rotates, flies under the south pole, and then takes images back up the other side.

    Other countries have their own weather satellites, too. The European Union, India, and Japan all have built their own weather satellites to view other parts of the world, to name a few.

    – Dan

  15. Charlotte on said:

    Hi Weather Dan. We were just wondering if our map made sense. (Mrs. Kroeber will send you our map.)

    Charlotte, I haven’t seen your map yet, but I’ll update my comments here as soon as I do! – Dan

  16. Can it precipitate frogs?

    Zoe, it definitely can! And it can rain fish, and tadpoles, and even corn husks.

    In fact, I wrote a story about it last year.

    – Dan

  17. Brannon on said:

    Why has VA been getting a lot of snow

    That’s a good question, Brannon. It’s not an easy one to answer, either.

    There are two ingredients necessary for a big snowstorm: moisture and cold air.

    Most of our snow over the last few winters has come from systems that develop just off the Atlantic coast, near North and South Carolina. When they develop there, the low pressure systems are able to tap into lots of moisture from the Gulf Stream. The other half of our equation is satisfied thanks to a large area of high pressure that has set up over Greenland at times. Sometimes it’s called the Greenland block. Because the high pressure area sets up over Greenland, lots of cold air from Canada is forced south into the eastern and southern United States.

    It’s rare that we get that combination for several winters in a row, but we got exactly that in the winters of both 2009 and 2010. It remains to be seen whether or not we’ll see a similar setup this coming winter.

    – Dan

  18. Colleen on said:

    Would a high pressure warm front coming up from the Gulf of Mexico near a low pressure cold front coming from the west make any sense?

    Colleen, I think it would make a little sense. What you would see would be one low pressure system, with a warm front stretching from just south of the low off to the east, and then a cold front training from the low off to the southwest. You’d probably find a high pressure system off to the west behind the cold front.

    – Dan

  19. Rachel on said:

    What is the difference between high pressure and low pressure? Thanks!

    Rachel, when we talk about pressure, we talk about the force of the air pushing down on the surface of the Earth. Even though it may not feel like it does, gravity is pulling down on the atmosphere just like it does you and me.

    In my response to Chamanthi, I talked about how the radiation we get from the sun helps to heat the earth and causes the atmosphere to move. Because air in the atmosphere moves, we don’t feel the same pressure from the air pushing down on the earth everywhere. When air is heated, it rises – that upward motion reduces the force of the air pushing on the earth. In other words, the pressure is lower. When air is cooled, we see the opposite happen; colder air is denser air, and so it weighs more and applies higher pressure to the surface of the earth.

    That’s the idea behind the concepts of high and low pressure. I think it’s important to point out that there’s not necessarily a correlation between air pressure and surface temperatures; you can’t use this to say that an area under low pressure is going to be warm and that an area under high pressure is going to be cold. There are other processes in the atmosphere that can affect the air pressure is well, and there are a number of other factors that go into changes in temperature.

    Hope this helps things make a little more sense.

    – Dan

  20. Hamza on said:

    Are you a meteorologist and a forecaster? (At first I didn’t totally understand why it’s called meteor-ologist.)

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