Kids Weather Newsletter for February 2022
“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together,” Vesta M. Kelly
The History of the Snowman
Few things are more fun than building a snowman when you’re a kid! I still remember going through the house and searching for the things that I could use to bring my snowman to life.
As a little boy, I was always amazed to see how such simple things could give three balls of snow a personality. The button eyes, the carrot nose…deciding to use a cowboy hat or a baseball cap. These things all made a big difference in what kind of person my snowman would be!
According to Bob Eckstein, author of The History of the Snowman, snowman building goes back to the year 1380! That was over 640 years ago! That snowman was built in The Hague, which is a city in the Netherlands. The earliest known picture of a snowman was taken in Wales in 1853.
Different countries may build snowmen differently from ours in America. While we tend to build our snowmen from three balls of snow stacked on top of each other, the English tend to only use two balls of snow. In Japan, they tend to make snow rabbits!
I was surprised to find out that kids in the desert have their own “snowman.” Since they have no snow, they build “snowmen” from tumbleweeds stacked on top of each other. I’m not sure if that’s funny or sad!
The record for the largest snowman was set in Bethel, Maine in 2008. That snowman was just a little over 122 feet tall! If that were a building it would have 11 floors! The previous record was also set in Bethel with a snowman that was 113 feet tall! Incidentally, Bethel gets about 75 inches of snow every winter! Yeah, that’s enough snow to build a huge snowman!
The smallest snowman was made in a special lab at a university in Canada. It was made of three snowballs that were each the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Imagine how small his hat would need to be!
Snow is simply ice crystals that have fallen from the clouds, but when they’re packed, stacked, and brought to life they become something altogether different and new. And what a fun, new creation it is!
Did You Know…
A snowflake is about 90% air! That’s why it doesn’t take much moisture to make snow. Since snow is made up of so much air, and because air is a great insulator, many animals burrow into the snow to stay warm.
A Lil Laugh
MM’s Cloud of the Month
Cirrus clouds are the highest clouds in the sky. They are made up entirely of ice crystals, because it’s so cold that high up in the sky. Cirrus clouds just kind of stream across the sky and look really pretty. If the clouds spread across the sky and form a hazy look they are labeled cirrostratus. Moisture often increases at the highest levels of the sky before a storm moves in. Cirrostratus clouds are the result of that and can cause a ring around the Moon the night before it snows, as seen below.
MM’s Meteorology in a Minute
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MM’s Favorite Weather Pic
This beautiful snow picture was taken at Big South Fork, right here on the Cumberland Plateau! It’s a beautiful place to visit. Plan a trip and maybe even do some hiking! It’s a wonderful idea for a one-day getaway with the family. To learn more about Big South Fork, please visit https://www.nps.gov/biso/index.htm!
Making a Snowman
2-3 large marshmallows
1 graham cracker
4-8 Mini chocolate chips
1 Candy corn
Icing as “glue”
Using your craft stick to spread icing, glue one marshmallow on top of the graham cracker and the second marshmallow on top of the first.
Carefully use a toothpick to pierce the marshmallow and create a hole, then insert the snowman features:
- Insert a candy corn for the snowman nose.
- Insert the pointy end of the mini chocolate chips for two snowman eyes.
- Repeat for the buttons on the bottom marshmallow(s).
Break a pretzel stick in half and poke a half-pretzel into the sides for arms.
Send me your questions!
January 2022 Newsletter
“When I orbited the Earth in a spaceship, I saw for the first time how beautiful our planet is. Mankind, let us preserve and increase this beauty, and not destroy it!,” Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
The Flying Parker Solar Probe
For the first time in human history, a spacecraft has touched the outer reaches of the sun! The spacecraft is technically called a probe and that probe is named the Parker Solar Probe.
That probe launched from Kennedy Space Center in 2018. Your very own Meteorologist Mark was there for that launch! It was such a cool experience! I had the opportunity to meet the people who helped put that project together. It was a very special day.
The Parker Solar Probe is an amazing device. First of all, it travels through space at a speed of 430,000 mph! It’s also the first spacecraft ever named after a living person. Eugene Parker must feel very special for that honor! This probe will teach us things about the sun that we have never known before.
Satellites have been studying the sun for many years, but this is the closest we have ever come to touching that enormous star.
The sun powers our planet and sustains life as we know it. So, it’s important to learn as much as we can about it. We need to better understand the cycles of the sun, the energy being released by the sun, and more!
Stay tuned to find out what information comes from this new solar probe! There’s just no telling what will be learned next about Earth’s nearest star.
The sun’s light contains every color of the rainbow….literally! We can’t see all those colors when the sun’s light first arrives but there are ways to separate those colors so that we can see them. For example, when the light from the sun shines through water droplets falling from the sky its colors are separated to create a rainbow. You can do that same thing with just a pan of water and a flashlight!
What to Do
- Fill the shallow pan about half way full with water.
- Place the mirror in the water at an angle.
- Shine the light into the water where the mirror is under water (or, using the sunlight, bring the pan and mirror outside so the sun can shine on the mirror underwater)
- Hold the white paper above the mirror; adjust the angle until you see the rainbow appear!
Did You Know….
It takes eight minutes and 20 seconds for light from the sun to reach Earth. So, if the sun were to suddenly go out we’d still have light for a little more than eight minutes. But don’t worry. The sun will be around for billions more years!
A Lil Laugh
Lil NASA Nerds
When charged particles from the sun reach the Earth, they can interact with the gasses of our atmosphere to create stunning lights in the night sky. We call those lights the aurora borealis. They are also called the northern lights. Hitting Earth’s atmosphere gets those particles from the sun so excited that they glow.
Have you ever gotten so excited that you glowed? Haha! Me either!
Those particles hit the Earth best at each of the Earth’s poles, so they are brightest in the sky there. That’s why kids in Canada and Alaska see them better than we can.
It’s very rare but sometimes we can see the northern lights here in Tennessee! In fact, the first northern lights I ever saw were from Crossville. The sky to the north was a reddish hue. It was so beautiful! I’ll always let you know if I think we’re going to be able to see them here again.
MM’s Favorite Space Pic
This picture was taken January 3 of this month at the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. It’s unusual to see snow in Alabama, but they got some earlier this month! This is their model of the Saturn V rocket all covered in snow.
If you ever get a chance to visit the Space and Rocket Center be sure and go! It’s so cool and it’s not all that far away!
Send me any questions you might have!
December 2021 Newsletter
“Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more,” Dr. Seuss.
What is a White Christmas?
Tis the season that we begin wondering if we will have a white Christmas. It’s about the only day of the year when most people agree snow would be a good thing!
You might be surprised to learn that the rules for a white Christmas are rather specific. You might be surprised to find that just having snowflakes to fall from the sky is not enough to qualify for a white Christmas.
The official definition of a white Christmas by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that there must be one inch of snow or more on the ground Christmas morning. Anything less than that simply won’t do!
Personally, I think I’d count the day as a white Christmas if snow fell at any time during the day. I’d also be satisfied with a dusting or so of snow! 🙂
The best chance for a white Christmas in the US is in Hawaii.
Yep. The best place to have a white Christmas is in Hawaii. The peaks of Hawaii’s highest mountains always have snow on them on Christmas Day. Then, you can make your way to the warm and sunny beaches for a “true Hawaiian” holiday. Sounds kinda neat, right?
The obvious places on the US mainland for a white Christmas are atop the highest peaks of the Rockies and the northern portions of the US. Occasionally, a southern state will see snow on Christmas, but that’s rather rare.
Here on the Cumberland Plateau we have about a 10% chance of a white Christmas. I can hear Jim Carey now saying, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” (From the movie Dumb & Dumber)
So, keep those fingers crossed, fellow snowbirds, you just never know when this might be our year for another white Christmas!
All you need for this activity is a piece of and a pair of scissors! We’re making snowflakes!
Step 7 shows how different folds will give different types of flakes.
Don’t worry if your snowflake isn’t exact: No two snowflakes are ever alike! (Tip: To smooth out any creases from folding, lightly iron one paper snowflake at a time on a low setting. You can also spritz a little spray starch to stiffen and flatten out
Flakes of Air
Did you know that most of a snowflake is just air? It’s true! In fact, about 90% of a snowflake is made up of air. That’s why it doesn’t take much moisture to make a lot of snow!
It only takes about one inch of water to make about 10 inches of snow. Considering that the plateau gets about 50 inches of precipitation a year, you might think that we’d get plenty of snow here. But, it takes a unique combination of cold air and moisture for those snowflakes to be able to fall to the ground and accumulate.
The cold air that is needed for snow is also drier air. Cold air is drier than warm air because warm air can hold more moisture. That’s why it’s so humid in the summer. That warm summer air can hold moisture very well. Dry, cold air makes it hard for a snowflake to fall. Since the flake is mostly air, it can easily evaporate in the dry air before it reaches the ground.
Precipitation that evaporates before it reaches the ground is called virga. That happens to snow a lot, actually. But, if it snows hard enough or long enough the air will become moist enough for the snowflake to make it to the ground.
For those of us who like snow, we sure do hope a lot of those snowflakes can make it to the ground this winter!
MM Wx fact
The snowiest place on Earth is right here in the United States! The most snow on Earth to fall in a year is on the slopes of Mt Rainier in Washington State. They pick up more than 600 inches of snow a year! That’s 50 feet of snow! Seattle’s persistent rains move east and end up being Mt Rainier’s persistent snows.
A Lil Laugh
MM’s Cloud of the Month
These clouds are low and dark and usually drop light rain or snow. These are the clouds that give the sky that “snowy look.” These clouds are seen quite often in the winter months. The “nimbo” is added to a cloud’s name when it produces precipitation. These clouds do not produce storms, therefore they contain no lightning.
Lil NASA Nerds
NASA recently sent up a rocket that carried the first device that may divert an asteroid away from Earth! This is great news because we never know when one of those rocks may come toward us and threaten our planet. The dinosaurs had no way to do anything about the one that impacted their world. Now, humans may stand a chance against such a thing.
This mission is called DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) and will arrive at the asteroid by September of next year. It will then smash into the asteroid and hopefully alter its course, if only by a very small amount.
Telescopes on Earth will be able to monitor the asteroid’s movement and that’s just what they’ll be doing. And rest easy, the asteroid is absolutely no threat to Earth. In fact, no known asteroids pose any threat for at least another 100 years.
MM’s Kid’s Class
In November’s class we got a bit creative with dinosaurs! I conducted a brief lesson on the likely causes of the dinosaur’s rather rapid extinction. We talked about the Indian volcanoes that were occurring around that time, with lava up to a mile deep! I then explained that a great big rock (asteroid) then slammed into the southern Gulf of Mexico, creating 1,000 feet tsunamis and an incinerating fireball. That fireball instantly wiped out everything within 900 miles of the impact. That was a bad day for the dinosaurs!
Our attention then turned to the dinosaur terrariums that we would be build. I provided an assortment of materials, including some dinosaurs, and the kids were then encouraged to let their imaginations run wild! I’ve attached those projects to the end of this letter. Those of you who subscribe to MM newsletters made this very fun class possible! We all thank you so very much!
MM’s Favorite SnapShots
Snowflakes that were photographed after being magnified.
November 2021 Newsletter
Crunching, crinkling, autumn leaves…..spiraling, swirling, in the breeze.
November’s Storms of Change
As most people prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday this month, they might forget that November can be a stormy month for people in Tennessee. In fact, it’s our second severe weather season of the year!
Most of our severe weather comes in the springtime when the seasons are changing from winter to summer. That’s when we get cold fronts that can bring strong storms that sometimes even make tornadoes. That’s why we need to pay attention to the weather in the springtime.
In the fall, the seasons are changing from summer to winter. Cold fronts come again and sometimes these fronts can bring some bad storms. The severe weather in the fall is usually not as bad as in the spring, but it is still worth paying attention to.
Another good thing about storms in the fall months is that most of them happen in only one month, November. In the springtime, severe weather comes in March, April, and May. So, the spring severe weather season tends to last longer than the fall one.
This year has been different. We had a bad storm on the sixth of October that dropped a tornado just north of Crossville. Usually, October is a dry month but that was not the case this year! October was more like November should be!
So, since so much bad weather and rain came in October it might mean that this November won’t be so stormy. In fact, weather outlooks show much of November to be too cold for storms. We may even see some snow flurries!
MM Wx fact
The safest place to be in a tornado is on the lowest level of the home and away from windows. Get in the middle of the home, with as many walls as you can get between you and the storm. Protect the head by wearing a helmet. Any kind of helmet will do! Leave a mobile home and seek shelter in a sturdier home. Mobile homes offer no protection in a tornado.
The Orion capsule has now been attached to the rocket that will send it to the Moon! It took 360 bolts to attach the 76,000-pound capsule but NASA got it done!
The last time we went to the moon the missions were named Apollo. In fact, Apollo 11 was the eleventh mission and that was the one that finally landed man on the moon. The final Apollo mission was the 17th one. That mission was in December of 1972.
It’s been that long since we’ve been to the moon!
Now, we’re going back. These new moon missions will be named Artemis. In Greek mythology, Artemis was Apollo’s twin sister.
Only men have walked on the moon. We’ve been there six times and with each mission two American men walked on the moon. A third man had to stay with the orbiting spacecraft that would come back and pick up the astronauts who were walking on the moon.
The crew of the Artemis missions will be different this time. For instance, a woman will walk on the moon for the first time! Plus, a person of color will get to go for the first time! What a day that will be!
The rocket that took us to the moon the first time was named Saturn and was the most powerful rocket on Earth. This new rocket system is named Space Launch System (SLS) and is even more powerful than the Saturn rocket!
NASA plans to test this rocket in January or February of next year. Then, by 2023 they will test a mission that will take the spacecraft around the moon and then come back to Earth. Three astronauts will be on that mission.
In time, NASA will partner with other space agencies around the world to create a space station, like the International Space Station (ISS), that will orbit the Moon like the ISS does the Earth. That will be named Gateway and will serve as a station between the Earth and the Moon for astronauts traveling to and from those points.
It’s an exciting time to be watching the space program! Future astronauts will head off to Mars and you just might be one of the people selected for that exciting and historical mission!
NASA Nerd’s Fact
Did you know that astronauts wear diapers? It’s true! Take-off and landing can take a long time and you can’t just pop into the bathroom when your spacecraft is screaming through the atmosphere, so you better wear a diaper! Plus, when astronauts do spacewalks they can’t come back inside to use the restroom. They have to wear an adult diaper, just in case. One astronaut commented that space offers quite the view when you gotta go during a spacewalk. 🙂
Making a tornado in a jar is easy! Just add a lot of water but don’t fill the jar completely. I have found that filling the jar to about a couple inches before the top can help make a better tornado. Add a drop of dishwashing detergent, a few drops of white vinegar and put the lid on tight. Give her a whirl and see what happens! Sometimes I put a little glitter in the jar and the glitter swirls around like debris would.
Try different colors of food coloring and see if it makes a difference in how well you can see your tornado in a jar.
For the best results, hold the bottom of the jar with your hand and tilt the jar to the side as you swirl it around. Make sure you get the water in the jar swirling around really good!
A Lil Laugh
MM’s Cloud of the Month
Even the smallest cumulus clouds can weigh as much as two elephants! In fact, it is believed that some cumulus clouds, like the ones pictured above, could weight more than a million pounds!
You may wonder how the cloud can stay afloat in the sky and weigh that much? Well, it’s because the individual water droplets that make up the cloud are so small and weigh so little. Plus, warm air rising from the Earth below helps keep the droplets hanging in the sky.
Did you know that moist air weighs less than dry air? It’s true! That also keeps the clouds hanging in the sky. The less something weighs, the less gravity can pull it down. Just try dropping a brick and a feather. Which one does gravity pull down the hardest?
“How sweet to be a Cloud
Floating in the Blue!
It makes him very proud
To be a little cloud,”
Pooh Bear, 1926
MM Kid’s Class
This month’s kids class didn’t happen because I was so busy with the Bigfoot Festival! (ha) November’s class will be on the demise of the dinosaurs. Stay tuned for when that class will be! An email list has been created for those interested in the classes. Let me know if you want to be added to that email list! Just email me at email@example.com.
October 2021 Newsletter
“The kids who ask WHY are the ones who are going to change the world.”– Neal Thompson
A Historical Month for Space Exploration
History was made on September 18th when a crew of four people launched into space from Kennedy Space Center! No one on board was a professionally trained astronaut. That’s a first!
That doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t get any training. In fact, the crew has been undergoing tests and training since March.
This mission was also special because the flight went to an altitude of 366 miles above the Earth’s surface! That’s higher than the International Space Station and the Hubble Telescope. In fact, humans haven’t flown this high up since the last mission to the Moon in 1972, according to SpaceX.
The crew spent three days in space, successfully splashing down in the Atlantic on Saturday, September 18th. The SpaceX mission, named Inspiration4, was a success!
The spacecraft was guided by crews back here on Earth. Just to be safe though, two pilots were onboard. The lead pilot was the first Black woman to ever pilot a spacecraft!
The crew of four were chosen by billionaire Jared Isaacman, who paid for the three-day flight. We still don’t know how much that flight cost. One of the crew members, Hayley Arceneaux, is a physician’s assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. She is now the youngest American to ever fly in space. She is 29 years old.
Hayley is also a cancer survivor. She beat cancer at the age of 10. During her cancer fight, she lost one of her legs. Now, she’s the first person to ever fly in space with a leg made of metal.
One of the best parts of this mission is that the goal was to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. An incredible $210 million dollars was raised for that hospital, including a $50 million donation from SpaceX founder Elon Musk!
This successful flight just helps pave the way for even more space exploration for people with no astronaut training.
There’s just no telling what will be accomplished next!
The graphic below shows how the International Space station, Inspiration4, and the Hubble Space Telescope compare in altitude above the Earth’s surface. Keep in mind that one kilometer equals 0.62 miles.
A perfect photo of the picture-perfect splashdown.
Cookies in Space!
The first oven to be put into space was sent up on a rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia in November of 2019. Rockets launched from Wallops tend to re-supply the International Space Station.
I was lucky enough to be able to be there for that launch! It sure was amazing!
Do you know what the first food cooked in that oven was? Chocolate chip cookies! In fact, the astronauts onboard the International Space Station baked those cookies just in time for Santa at Christmas!
The five cookies had to be baked one at a time and in a pouch. The pouch was to keep cookie crumbs from floating around and possibly damaging something on the space station.
A special oven and oven rack had to be made, too. On Earth, gravity keeps our cookies on the rack in the middle of the oven. In space, they would float around the oven!
The cookies ended up taking much longer to bake than they do here on Earth. In a 300-degree oven, cookies have to bake for about 20 minutes. I like my cookies gooey, so I’d probably take them out after 15 minutes (haha).
In space, it took the cookies 130 minutes to bake! That’s a big difference from Earth! I don’t know about you, but I’d be absolutely dying of starvation if I had to wait that long for a cookie!
The smell of the cookies filled the space station. That must have been nice. Unfortunately, the cookies had to be sent back to Earth for testing. Thankfully, NASA had sent up some pre-baked cookies for the astronauts to enjoy.
Having an oven on the space station really opens up possibilities for food preparation on the station! Imaging sailing through space while the smell of freshly baked cookies fills the air of the space station. That sounds like a sweet ride to me!
A Fun Activity!
How would you like to draw an astronaut in space? For those of us who can’t draw, we can just follow these easy step-by-step instructions and have an astronaut flying through space in no time! Give it a try! After you draw it, color it up and send it to me! You might just get featured in next month’s newsletter!
MM Weather Fact
Did you know that raindrops are shaped like hamburger buns? It’s true! The drop begins round as it falls from the cloud, but then air resistance flattens the bottom of the drop. By the time it gets to the ground, it’s shaped liked a hamburger bun! Great, now I want a hamburger…. 🙂
A little laugh
The Cloud of the Month!
The Cirrus Cloud
This month’s cloud is the Cirrus cloud! These clouds are way up high in the atmosphere where temperatures are really cold! They are very thin clouds and are made up entirely of little ice crystals. They can be a signal that the weather is about to change, because they often move in ahead of a storm system. They sure are pretty!
September MM Kids’ Class
This month’s MM Kids’ class was a bit unusual. We like unusual, so that was good (ha). The topic was “strange things that fall from the sky.”
We talked about how frogs, fish, and gators have all fallen from the sky. We talked about how they were probably picked up by waterspouts and then thrown on to land. One Honduran village experiences fish falling from the sky at least once a year. They even celebrate it with a bit of a feast/festival when it happens!
We talked about how it appeared to rain blood on one town and that it was caused by algae spores that turned red when lifted into the clouds. That was very bizarre!
I reminded the kids that we even have strange things that fall from our skies during severe weather. The storm that produced the Baxter tornado in March of 2020 dropped pictures, vinyl siding, car titles, and such across northern Cumberland and southern Fentress counties.
The hands-on activity would prove to be messy. Again, we kind of like messy, so all was good (ha). We poured a couple of inches of Karo syrup in our jars. Next, we poured a couple inches of water on top of the syrup.
I about boo-booed on this step because I told the kids that no matter how much you mix the syrup and water, they would always separate. It’s just that after the mixture is whipped very hard by certain little boys….well, it takes a long time to separate. Ha!
Then, I gave the kids a small cup of Isopropyl alcohol of 90% concentration. I added about three drops of food coloring to that alcohol. Blue or green food coloring works best. They then drew that solution up into their syringes. We had previously cut some aquarium hose and added that to the end of our syringe.
We then carefully slipped the end of our hose down into the Karo syrup. The kids then released the food coloring into the syrup and watched it do really cool things as it ascended to the top of the jar. This demonstrated fluid dynamics, like what we see in our own atmosphere. It’s those dynamics that carry things and then drop them from the air.
This was a messy class, but a good time was had by all! Messes can be cleaned up, but the lesson learned is forever.
Night Sky Watching in October
October 6 – New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects, such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
October 7 – Draconids Meteor Shower. The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900. The Draconids is an unusual shower in that the best viewing is in the early evening instead of early morning like most other showers. The shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the the night of the 7th. This year, the nearly new moon will leave dark skies for what should be an excellent show. Best viewing will be in the early evening from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
October 20 – Full Moon. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. This phase occurs at 6:54. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt.
October 21, 22 – Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. The full moon will be a problem this year for the Orionids. Its glare will block out all but the brightest meteors. But if you are patient, you should still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.