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The Weather's A-Changin'

A new radar technology known as "Cloudsat" is designed for scientists to observe the interior of clouds. Most cloud radar technology of the past was designed showing only the uppermost layers of clouds. Scientists determined that it might be possible to gain more information on cloud structure and movement if they were able to see the entire cloud.

Balloonists have noticed for years that air currents may not always be constant, despite a steady weather pattern. If you watch these balloons move after they rise off the ground, some interesting patterns are seen. The higher the balloon moves, the more it may change direction of travel. It appears, though we cannot see them, that there are several layers of the atmosphere where air currents occur.

Depending on where you live, you may have observed weather patterns occurring based on the topography of the land. As air rises over mountains, it cools. Often during the cooling process, clouds form. Thunderclouds are often associated with mountains. Another weather pattern common to Utah is the "lake effect." When clouds cross the Great Salt Lake, the amount of moisture in the clouds increases. When this heavier air reaches the mountains, it drops a greater amount of precipitation than is seen in areas farther from the lake.

Try It!

Now you are going to design the location for a new town. Your goal is to provide an area with enough stable weather patterns that plants grow easily. In addition you have control over every factor that nature typically provides. You therefore can have lakes, oceans, mountains, rivers or other abiotic factors to assist your weather patterns. Create a diorama of this ideal town. Make sure you indicate how the land features assist you in "controlling" the weather. Share your diorama with friends, classmates, a parent or teacher.

For some wonderful additional information on ocean surface topography as measured from space, visit the JPL NASA website. Be sure to investigate as many of the topics therein as you can. They really are quite excellent in content, variety, and instruction.
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Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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