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Acid Rain Lesson Plan

Activity 5 – Understanding weather maps and the importance of storm tracking

Time: Run by events; two to three storm events in 30 days

Behavioral Objectives

At the end of this lesson the student will be able to:

  1. Explain how storm tracking is important to understanding sources of acid rain pollution.
  2. Read and understand a weather map.


You will need:

  1. National Weather maps (these should be saved for the 30-day period of this activity. This will allow for tracking all storm events during the 30-day period). Collect them from your local newspaper.
  2. Inexpensive pH test kit for water (or comparative kit). Many scientific supply houses for schools carry these.
  3. Clean wide-mouth glass or plastic container for collecting rain samples.
  4. Accurate rain gauge
  5. Data sheet (Figure 7)
  6. Blank United States map (make as many copies as necessary; Figure 8).

Instructions to Teacher

  1. Refer to "Background Information," 3.0 to 3.10, 6.0 to 7.7.
  2. Instruct the students to collect national weather maps for a 30-day period. These maps will be used continually throughout the lesson.
  3. Figure 9 is an example of the National Weather Service map for Friday, March 11, 1983, (Knoxville Journal, March 10, 1983. Knoxville, Tennessee).
  4. Using a copy of the U.S. map (Figure 8), have the students track each storm event as it moves toward them (using a separate map for each event) during the 30-day period.
  5. Have the students collect all precipitation for the 30-day period, keeping track of the total rainfall with a rain gauge and also recording the total rain per storm event.
  6. At the end of the storm event collection period, assist students in measuring pH. Have them record information on data sheets (Figure 7).

Instructions to Students

  1. Set up plastic or glass collection container for rain in an open area away from buildings and trees. This will be left out for a 30-day period. the rain is measured after each storm event and recorded. Also, the total amount for the 30-day period is recorded.
  2. Each symbol on a weather map is important. The ones you should be mainly concerned with for this
    1. activities are:

      • Warm fronts and movement
      • Cold fronts and movement
      • Occluded fronts and movement
      • Rain, snow, showers, flurries

  3. You should know the direction of heavily populated areas, industrial areas, coal-fired power plants, etc., in your area. Plot these on the blank U.S. maps provided by your teacher.
  4. Each day of the activity, record the national weather on one of the U.S. maps. (The same map should be used during the whole storm event.) On the map, write in the days in which the event occurred.
  5. A storm front normally precedes what is termed an occluded front (this is when a cold front overtakes a warm front, forcing the warm air up and over the cold front).
  6. At the end of each storm event in the 30-day period, collect the rain gauge and the rain collector with the rain for the test period. With the help of your teacher, test the sample three separate times for pH and get an average pH figure. Record this and the total rainfall for the storm event on the data sheet (Figure 7).


Questions to Students

  1. During the 30-day test period, were there any storm events? Which direction did they come from?
  2. Are there any large sources of pollution (No. 3 above) in this direction? How far did the storm travel from the pollution sources to your area?
  3. Was there any difference between pH calculated in this activity with the pH calculated for Activity 4? How such of a difference? How did this activity pH compare with GRSM pH?
  4. Why might there be a difference between Activity 4 and 5? GRSM and Activity 4?

updated on 04/20/2006  I   http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/edu/Lessons/Activity5.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster