As summer approaches, we can experience unpredictable weather here in Northeast Wisconsin. Between heavy downpours, loud thunderstorms and the possibility for tornadoes, there is much to learn! We asked our young Go Valley Kids readers what they wondered about weather in “Ask a Meteorologist” and are excited that Emmy award-winning, “weather fanatic” Chief Meteorologist Cameron Moreland of NBC26 agreed to answer them!
Q&A with Cameron
Q: What is the highest temperate ever recorded in Wisconsin’s history? – Alex R, 10, Appleton
A: “114° in the Wisconsin Dells on July 13th, 1936.”
Q: Why does it hail during a thunderstorm? – Amelia N, 7, Appleton
A: “Within a thunderstorm, there are very strong updrafts. Wind blowing vertically within the thunderstorm at speeds of 50 to 70 to 100 mph. That strong wind pushing upward takes rain up into a part of the cloud that’s below freezing where the raindrops freeze into ice, otherwise known as hail. When the hail becomes too heavy, it falls to the ground. Hail sizes range from a pea to larger than a softball.”
Q: What country experiences the most tornadoes? – Jay D, 7, Kimberly
A: “By far the United States of America has the most tornadoes per year. We typically see between 1,000 and 1,500 tornadoes in the USA each and every year. Here in Wisconsin, we average 23 tornadoes per year. Some years can have a lot less, others can have a lot more.”
Q: Why do kids act crazy during a full moon? – Hadley G, 9, Hilbert
A: “There is no direct correlation between a full moon and people acting crazy, however, the word ‘lunatic’ comes from the Latin word Luna, which means moon!”
Q: Do you have to go to school to be a meteorologist? – Secrett C, 8, Ripon
A: “Yes, you need to go to college to become a meteorologist. I have Bachelors of Science in Meteorology. It takes four years to complete and involves a lot of math and science.”
Q: Can you make it warmer? – Helen F, 4, Greenville
A: “I wish I could control the weather! Some people believe I can do so, but unfortunately, I cannot make it warmer, colder, wetter, windier or snowier.”
Q: What was the worst storm in the history of storms? – Lucas L, 10, Appleton
A: “Bad storms come in all shapes and varieties. You can have blizzards that produce feet of snow and hurricane force winds. You can have tornadoes that produce winds of 300mph and completely wipe out a town. Hurricanes that produce winds in excess off 200mph and a storm surge, they can wipe out town after town. You can have thunderstorms that produce torrential downpours and flooding that can wipe out towns. In 1970, a hurricane hit Pakistan, killing 500,000 people. Numerous other hurricanes have killed almost as many people in world history.”
Q: Why is it cold? – Gracie L, 4, Appleton
A: “Wisconsin is roughly halfway between the equator and the north pole. A lot of our air masses come from the north. In other words, we get a lot of cold air coming from the north pole, especially during the winter.”
Q: How do tornadoes form? – Megan L, 8, Green Bay
A: “Tornadoes form from thunderstorms. Thunderstorms typically develop when warm air and cold air collide. If you have very strong winds within a thunderstorm that start to rotate, they can tighten up into a tornado. Less than 10% of all thunderstorms become severe (storms that produce damaging winds and large hail) and even a small amount of thunderstorms produce tornadoes (2%).”
Q: What is the average amount of rain Wisconsin gets every year? – Eric C, 12, Ripon
A: “We typically see about 30″ inches of precipitation a year. That comes in the form of rain and snow. The lowest amount on record occurred in 1937 when 112″ inches of precipitation was observed in Door County. The highest amount was in 1884 when 62″ inches of precipitation was observed in Waupaca County.”
Q: Can it snow on a really cold day during the summer? – Jaxtyn B, 8, Appleton
A: “Snow has never been observed in the Fox Valley during the months of June, July and August. Having said that, it snows every summer at the top of thunderstorms moving through the Fox Valley. I have been in Colorado in July and have seen it snow at the top of a 14,000-foot mountain.”
Q: Why is snow white? – Kennedy, 6, Menasha
A: “Light is scattered by ice crystals, otherwise known as snow, and produces a white color.”
Q: Why is thunder loud? – Aiden K, 5, Fond Du Lac
A: “Lightning heats the air up to 50,000° and that intense heating causes thunder. The closer you are to lightning, the louder the thunder. When you see lightning, start counting. For every five seconds you count, lightning is one mile away!”
Q: Why are raindrops the same shape? – Reagan, 13, Oshkosh
A: “Raindrops are typically spherical at formation. They start to look like teardrops as they fall towards the earth and friction changes the shape of the raindrop.”
Q: What are shelf clouds and when can I see one? – Andy M, 10, Appleton
A: “Shelf clouds form at the beginning of a thunderstorm. They are called shelf clouds because they resemble a shelf. Sometimes they look like multiple flying saucers stacked on top each other. They are formed as colder air rushes out of the thunderstorm, pushing warmer air above it. We usually see them every year here in Wisconsin as thunderstorms move in.”
Q: How come clouds can’t be rainbow colors? – Serenity J, 8, Appleton
A: “Some clouds can be rainbow colored! With a particular type of ice particle or water droplet in a cloud, you can get what we call a fire rainbow. They are quite rare, though. Most clouds are just white or gray. Google fire rainbow to see what I mean.”
Q: Should we be about global warming? – Iris R, 14, Neenah
A: “The earths’ climate has been changing non-stop since the beginning of time. At all times, whether it’s cooling or warming…the earth has experienced extreme weather. As with all things in life, we will learn to adapt.”
Q: How come clouds don’t freeze in the winter? – Mason R, 9, Green Bay
A: “Water typically freezes at 32° and clouds sometimes have what we call ‘super cooled’ water droplets – water that will not freeze until the temperature is -40° to -55°. This happens when there is nothing for them to freeze on.”
Q: How do you know when it is going to snow? – Angel R, 6, Kaukauna
A: “Every day when I get to work, I’ll take a look at computer forecast models. These computer models try to forecast what the weather is going to be during the next day, week or month. If the computer models are predicting snow, then I might put it in the forecast. If there is a consensus between the computer forecast models, then I will put snow in the forecast. After that, the tricky part is trying to determine where the heaviest snow will fall and how much snow is going to fall.”
Q: How does dry lighting happen? – Vincent S, 9, Appleton
A: “Lightning forms when pieces of ice or frozen rain bump up against each other in a cloud. This creates an electrical charge. When the charge gets large enough, you get lightning.”
Q: How does the water flow into the clouds? – Kallyn G, 10, Appleton
A: “It is called the Hydrological Cycle. Water falls from clouds in the form of rain. The rain hits the earth and then flows into rivers or lakes. The water then evaporates from the rivers or lakes and goes back into a cloud. The whole process starts again.”
Q: Can it snow during a tornado? – Noah G, 9, Appleton
A: “Although extremely rare, you can occasionally get a tornado within a thunderstorm that is producing snow at the surface. More common is a tornado moving over ground that has some leftover snow on it.”
Q: How big are rain drops? – Rachel L, 6, Appleton
A: “Raindrops range in size from .1mm to 5mm. A raindrop of 1mm has been observed – that’s about half the size of a penny!”
Q: Where does rain come from? – Aubrie G, 7, Little Chute
A: “Rain comes from clouds. Clouds are formed from moisture evaporating from the ocean, lakes and rivers.”
Q: Why is the weather stormy and windy? – Katelyn M, 3, Appleton
A: “Wisconsin is a very active part of the world as far as the weather is concerned. The jet stream is constantly bouncing around over the state producing storms.”
Q: What is the worst storm that you have ever saw and reported? – Paxton B, 9, Little Chute
A: “I have lived in Wisconsin for 25 years. During that time, I have reported on killer tornadoes, thunderstorms with hurricane force winds, flooding rains and crippling blizzards. We can get some pretty crazy weather in our neck of the woods.”
Q: Why do clouds move and turn grey or black when it rains? – Amelia S, 4, Appleton
A: “Clouds move due to upper level winds that push them along. The bottom of a cloud can turn very dark when the cloud is thick enough to block out sunlight.”
Q: How can it hail when it is warm out? – Jackson S, 6, Sherwood
A: “During the middle of the summer when it’s 90° outside and we have a thunderstorm move in, while we’re getting rain here at the ground…at the top of a thunderstorm, it’s a raging blizzard. In other words, it is very cold at the top of a thunderstorm where hail forms. Hail that develops within a thunderstorm can become so big that it doesn’t have enough time to melt before reaching the ground.”
Q: Why can we see light if the sun is behind clouds, but can’t always see moonlight at night? – Claire N, 12, Green Bay
A: “The light coming from the sun is way more intense than light coming from the moon. Moonlight is just reflected sunlight coming off the surface of the moon. It’s like trying to see a flashlight from a mile away versus seeing headlights for my car a mile away. You will see the headlights (sun) but you will not see the flashlight (moon).”
Q: Why does thunder make your house shake? – Miles F, 7, Kaukauna
A: “Thunder is just a sound wave created by lightning. When that sound wave moves through certain solid objects, it causes that object to vibrate. Sometimes, a big truck passing by outside your house can produce the same shaking motion.”
Q: What was the hottest and coldest day you have ever recorded? – Ellasyn B, 11, Little Chute
A: “The hottest temperature on earth ever recorded was 134° in Death Valley, California in 1934. The coldest temperate ever recorded on earth was -129° in Antarctica in 1983.”
Q: When will it be 80 degrees? – Aarti S, 7, Combined Locks
A: “We will hit 80° either on the Sunday before Memorial Day or on Memorial Day itself. It will be one of the latest first 80° high temperatures on record! We have had a very cool spring so far here in Northeast Wisconsin.”
Q: What is the latest into the New Year that we have still had snow? – Travis C, 11, Ripon
A: “On May 28th, 1947, a snowstorm produced 3″ to 9″ inches of snow from near Ripon to Oshkosh to Appleton to Green Bay. That is only three days from the start of meteorological summer.”
Q: How do clouds form thunderstorms? – Evie, 9, Appleton
A: “Rising air cools and condenses and produces clouds. If the rising air is very warm and moves quickly upwards, you can get a thunderstorm.”
Q: What causes the difference between hail and sleet? – Emily M, 12, Appleton
A: “Hail is formed in a thunderstorm. Strong updrafts within a thunderstorm push rain high up into a cloud where temperatures are below freezing.. The rain will freeze into ice called hail. Sleet forms when snowflakes melt into rain drops as they fall from the cloud as they enter air that is above freezing. As they get closer to the ground and re-enter air that is below freezing, the raindrops are turned into ice known as sleet.”
Q: How do you become a weather person? – Norah S, 5, Rockford
A: “You need to have a love for weather! After graduating high school, you need to go to college for four years to get a meteorology degree. After, I used my meteorology degree to become a weather person on TV. I love telling people about weather, so that’s why I chose that profession.”
Fun Weather Tunes
Whether you’re going dancing in the rain or watching a storm roll in from your window, here are some fun weather-inspired tunes to sing along to!
- Warm & Cold by This & That
- How’s The Weather? by Pinkfong
- Singing in the Rain by The Learning Station
- The Seasons Song by Have Fun Teaching
- Stormy Weather by Jon Brooks
- Mr. Sun, Sun, Mister Golden Sun by Little Baby Bum
- Hot and Cold on the Beach by Little Angel
- It’s Raining, It’s Pouring by EflashApps
- Why Do Leaves Change Color? by Treetop Family
- Fun in the Snow by Cocomelon
Weather Themed Stories
Nothing is better than snuggling up with a book on a rainy day! Check out these great stories that feature all different kinds of weather!
- Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
- The Meteorologist in Me by Brittney Shipp
- The Little Raindrop by Joanna Gray
- How the Crayons Saved the Rainbow by Monica Sweeney
- Worm Weather by Jean Taft
- Singing in the Rain by Tim Hopgood
- Tornadoes! by Gail Gibbons
- Curious About Snow by Gina Shaw
- Freddy the Frogcaster by Janice Dean
- When the Storm Comes by Linda Ashman
- Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holub
- Bringing the Outside In by Mary McKenna Siddals
- Puddle Jumpers by Anne Margaret Lewis
- Miss Mingo Weathers the Storm by Jamie Harper
- Rough Weather Ahead for Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle
For Future Meteorologists
Have a kiddo who aspires to be a weather person? Consider these interactive and educational gifts!
- STEM Starters: Meteorology Activity Book by Jenny Jacoby
- Weather Balancing Game by Bigjigs Toys
- Tornado Maker Kit by KidzLabs
- Season Wise Weather Sorting by Chalk and Chuckles
- 23 STEM Climate Experiments by Thames & Kosmos
- Storm Cloud Weather Predicting Barometer by Bitten
- Weather Bingo by Lucy Hammett Games
- 5-Piece Weather Cookie Cutter Set by Ann Clark
- The Kids’ Book of Weather Forecasting by Mark Breen
- Weather Journal for Kids by Jan Teacher
Weather Inspired Projects
Stir up a storm of creativity with these fun weather-inspired activities!
Coffee Filter Rainbows
Create a colorful rainbow to hang in your window!
- White Coffee Filters
- Plastic Googly Eyes
- Washable Markers
- White Cardstock
- Glue Gun
- Water Spray Bottle
- Ribbon (optional)
Flatten out the coffee filters and color in rainbow order with washable markers. After coloring, lightly spray the filter with water so the colors blend and spread. Set your rainbows aside to air dry for an hour. Once fully dried, cut the filter in half to create two rainbow sides and set aside. Using a pencil, lightly sketch out the shape of a cloud on white cardstock paper and cut it out carefully. Glue the cloud to the rainbow. Apply a set of googly eyes and draw on a smile with markers. Using ribbon, attach a small loop to the back of the rainbow to hang it.
Homemade Rain Gauge
Curious about how much rain has fallen? Find out with this super easy project that uses recycled materials!
- Plastic 2-Liter Bottle
- Black Sharpie
Carefully cut the bubbled top portion of the bottle off, creating a flat and even surface on the top. Take a ruler and measure out intervals of your choice and draw a line with your sharpie. Be sure to continue the line around the whole bottle and label it with its measurement. Set your gauge outside during the next rain shower and see how much it rained!
Fluffy Cloud Dough
With only two ingredients, this dough is easy to make and a lot of fun for little hands!
- 2 c. Corn Starch
- 1 c. Scented Conditioner
- Mixing Bowl
- Lidded Container, if saving
In a mixing bowl, add the corn starch and scented conditioner. You can use any conditioner scent but fresh rain would be extra fitting! Mix well with the spatula until fluffy and finish kneading with your hands. When the kiddos are done playing with it, store in a container with a lid. Have fun!
Windy Hair Painting
Wind can make your hair go crazy, how crazy will you make it when you control the wind?
- White cardstock
- Black Sharpie
- Watercolor Paints
On a piece of paper, draw out a self portrait or silly face using a black sharpie marker. Next, add a generous amount of water to watercolor paints. Using a pipette, drop small pools of paint on top the head of your portrait. Take a straw and gently blow the colored paint in different directions. Allow to dry completely before hanging. How crazy did your hair get?
Sunny Day Drawings
Spend time outside and create a masterpiece using some sunshine!
- White cardstock
- Colored Pencils
- Small Toys (Animals, Cars, Shapes, etc.)
On a sunny day, grab your supplies and head outside. Set up your paper on the ground or at an outdoor table that is directly in the sun. Place toys like animals, cars or any other favorites at the edge of the paper so the sun makes a shadow. Using colored pencils, trace the shadow. Be creative and color in or design the shadow you drew! Don’t forget your sunblock for this craft – art is fun, sunburn is not!
DIY Weather Station
Channel your inner meteorologist with this crafty weather station at home!
- White cardstock
- Self Laminating Sheets
- Metal Cookie Sheet
- Magnetic Tape
- Weather Clipart
Print off a variety of weather pictures, use clipart, or draw your own. Cut out the photos and laminate the pieces. Cut a small strip of magnetic tape and adhere it to the back and place on the cookie sheet. You can customize the weather station by adding extra labels written or typed out on the computer like a today’s weather, weekly forecast or even a calendar. Have fun!
Pretty Rainbow Windsock
Design a colorful windsock and watch it sway in the wind!
- White cardstock
- Crepe streamers
- Markers or Paint
- Stapler or Tape
- Hole Punch
Paint or color a fun design on a piece of paper and roll so the edges touch, staple or tape well. Cut long strips of crepe streamers and attach to the bottom of the windsock. Take a hole punch and make two holes at the top of the windsock, opposite of each other. Attach a ribbon and hang the windsock.
Seasonal Sensory Bottles
With a few supplies and a sprinkle of creativity, create all the seasons right in a bottle!
- 4 VOSS or Core Water Bottles
- Fine Glitter
- Pom Poms, assorted colors
- Water Beads
- Faux Leaves
- Super Glue
Take four water bottles, VOSS and Core work the best, and remove the labels. VOSS offers a glass bottle variety, while Core is made of plastic. Fill each bottle half way with water and water beads and then decorate according to the season. Add in glitter, poms, confetti and faux leaves. Once completed, fill the remaining space with water beads, leaving a small gap at the top and super glue the lid shut. Allow to dry before playing.
Scavenger Hunt Weather Mobile
Go on an adventure and collect pieces to make a beautiful weather mobile!
- Two thin sticks, roughly a foot long each
- Yarn, any color
- Hot Glue Gun
- Weather Clipart
- Decor from Nature
Go on a walk along your favorite trail or at the beach and collect pieces from nature like rocks, shells, leaves or acorns. Be sure to find two sticks for the base of the mobile. Once ready, make an “x” with your sticks and secure with a dab of hot glue. Wrap yarn around the connection to decorate and further secure and create a loop for hanging. Cut long, varying pieces of yarn and glue on weather clipart and the nature decor. Tie the pieces to the base. Admire your beautiful weather mobile!
Snowstorm in a Bag
We get a lot of snow in the winter, but have you ever wanted to make your own snowstorm?
- Sealable Plastic Bag, gallon size
- Black Sharpie
- White Paper Napkins
Draw a snowman on the front of a gallon sized plastic bag with a seal. Be creative and draw the scenery and fine details! Take paper napkins and rip them into small pieces and place them in the bag. Seal the bag except a small slot large enough to insert the straw. Insert the straw and be sure the bag is sealed. Gently blow into the straw and watch the “snowflakes” fly around and create a snowstorm. This will be the warmest snowstorm on record!
Scholastic Learn at Home and BrainPOP are great resources for online learning that includes lessons, videos and books on topics like weather! Scholastic at Home is targeted for kids in grades PreK – 9. BrainPOP is an animated educational site for kids and includes topics like Science, Social Studies, English, Math, Arts & Music, Health, and Technology for grades K – 12.
Sending out a very special thank you to Cameron Moreland for your expertise and participation and to all the kiddos who submitted questions. We hoped you enjoyed learning about weather just as much as we did!