Global Environmental Systems

Spring 2010

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Extra Credit 1


A number of you mentioned that you were interested in hazards and unusual weather. So here's your opportunity to see some actual footage of tornadoes and hurricanes, and the huge 1993 floods in the midwest. You can also look at "What's Up With the Weather", a video exploring evidence and effects of global warming and policy issues/responses.

Four NOVA Videos are on 2 hr Reserve in the at the Multimedia Department in Schultz Library. You can view them in the Multimedia Center. You should ask for them under the call numbers, which can be found at The four Videos are:

Tornado! VHS 3698

Hurricane! VHS 3697 or MRES 9053

Flood! VHS 3595 or MRES 9051

What's Up With the Weather VHS 6079 v. 3


Pick one of the four (or all four if you like) to view. You may work in groups, but you must write your own essay, in your own words. No Credit will be given for copied or plaigarized papers. Read the questions for each video BEFORE you view it, so that you'll know what information you're looking for. Write a short essay describing what you learned from the video, what you liked about it, and what you thought could have been improved. Include the answers to the questions in your essay. Papers should be typed ( word processed). Be sure to check grammar and spelling. Let me add that although these videos are not new (they were made several years ago), the scientific information and study techniques are still current (except for the climate change video). Not a lot of new information could be added at this time. You will be graded on both Content and on Writing skills, including grammar and spelling. DO NOT: write an essay on the video from material you obtain on line. You must watch the video all the way through yourself.

(P.S. The way you answer these questions helps me to determine that you viewed the videos entirely.)

 For the Tornado video, include answers to the following questions in your discussion:

1. What kinds of weather patterns spawn tornadoes?

2. Which kinds of air masses can play a role in tornado development?

3. Where is "tornado alley"? Why do you think there are so many tornadoes here?

4. What is "wind shear"?

5. What is the velocity of wind in a tornado?

6. How does "Doppler radar" help scientists locate tornadoes? How might it help save lives?

7. What construction technique might help reduce destruction of houses from tornadoes?


For the Hurricane video, include answers to the following questions in your discussion.

1. Where do hurricanes spawn, and under what environmental conditions?

2. About how many hurricanes develop in the North Atlantic every year? Where do typhoons develop? Why are they commonly stronger than hurricanes?

3. What is the general structure of a hurricane? How does low pressure play a role? About how big are they? How high do the winds get?

4. Besides high winds, what are the major destructive forces associated with hurricanes?

5. What methods are used to study hurricanes? What are scientists learning?

6. Why are hurricane forecasts so difficult? (What is it about the path of a hurricane that is so unpredictable?)

7. Why do people have "hurricane parties"? Would you have such a party?

8. What are one or two ways that hurricanes may be considered beneficial?


For the Flood video, include answers to the following questions in your discussion.

1. How did the position and shape of the jet stream contribute to the flooding of 1993? What kinds of storms caused the flooding?

2. Why might this flood be called a "leisurely disaster"?

3. Were the floods most devastating to towns or farms? Why?

4. About how frequently do floods of this magnitude occur in the midwest?

5. How did building levees along the river contribute to flooding?

6. Why did the Army Corps blast a hole in one of the levees?

7. During the peak of the flood, ship and barge traffic was halted along the river. How might river traffic have contributed to the damage?


For What's Up With the Weather, include answers to the following questions in your answers:

1. What do we mean by "global warming" or "greenhouse warming"?

2. About how much has the global temperature risen over the past 100 years?

3. How does the last decade of the 20th century (1990s) and first six years of the 21st century compare in terms of global temperature with the last 1000 years (also, last 10,000 years, last 450,000 years)?

4. What does the Mauna Loa record show? Is this significant evidence?

5. What evidence is there that humans are responsible for this rise in temperature? Is it possible that this temperature rise might be caused only by natural variation? Explain.

6. What are some of the projected effects of global warming? (Should we be worried?)

7. Do you think the US should have signed the Kyoto agreement? Why or why not?

8. What are some of the possible solutions to our dependence on fossil fuels? What do you think of these ideas?

9. From your personal knowledge, in what ways is this video out of date? How has the argument progressed, or has it?


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