Weather Animations

A Guide to the Best Interactive Weather Animations and Visualizations

Weather animations can help to enhance weather science knowledge by allowing the user to view a meteorological process step-by-step. Each animation in this list has been chosen for its high quality and accuracy. In addition, I have chosen animations that cover a range of meteorology topics at various levels of understanding. Teachers and students may want to use these animations when creating science fair projects, earth science lesson plans, or PowerPoint projects.

1
Hurricane Katrina: The Levees

This excellent interactive graphic shows just how and why hurricane Katrina was so devastating to New Orleans. An interactive map shows the direction of the floods as well as the locations of the levees. Using a control panel, the user gets a step-by-step view of the flooding of New Orleans.

2
The Birth of Hurricanes Videos

The birth of hurricanes is examined in my own list of the 10 best hurricane animations. Most of the links are for videos, but everything from the Saffir-Simpson scale to hurricane paths are examined.

3
National Hurricane Center Virtual Tour

Tour the National Hurricane Center (NHC) from home with this easy to use Java program. A guided tour with audio will show users how the NHC works. No internet connection is required in the classroom because this program can be downloaded and saved on local computers. A great addition to any hurricane lesson plan.

4
Types of Precipitation

By manipulating the wet and dry bulb temperatures, users can determine the types of precipitation that will be released from a cloud. With the ability to include an updraft, students can learn the temperatures necessary to produce rain, snow, sleet, and hail. This animation is easy to use and understand, but is for middle school levels and up.

5
Hadley Cells and the ITCZ

Exploring the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) is a breeze with this Prentice Hall animation. Students can show areas of high and low pressure, Hadley cell formation, and precipitation over a global map. The labels can be turned off on this animation for quizzing students.

6
The Atmosphere - Layers, Height, and Composition

The layers of the atmosphere are presented in this excellent animation series. There is a sidebar menu for a truly interactive experience. While the information is more basic, this weather animation would also serve as an excellent review for older students.

7
The Coriolis Effect

The Coriolis Effect can be a difficult concept to grasp. This link will take you to my own list of the top 10 Coriolis Effect Games and Simulations. And if you are interested in a deeper explanation of how this concept, go to Understanding the Coriolis Effect.

8
The Hunt for the Supertwister

Using live images from real tornado damages, PBS asks users to rate the Fujita scale that could have caused the damages. While the Enhanced Fujita scale is not discussed, the activity is simple and links to more information on the Hunt for the Supertwister. This site is definitely worth checking out.

9
The Weather Laboratory

Fun for all ages, this interactive weather site uses flash animation to describe everything from the weather on other planets, to why the sky is blue, and to how satellites are used in weather studies. I highly recommend this site for anyone of all ages.

10
Rainbows - Primary and Secondary

Making a rainbow in this simulation is easy. Students and other users adjust the size and number of raindrops as well as choosing primary or secondary rainbows. Then, as the distance to the rain is manipulated, users can see where and how a rainbow will form. Great for a younger crowd.

11
Global Energy Balance

Anyone wishing to understand the delicate radiation balance on earth needs to see this animation which demonstrates earth's energy budget. Simple and easy to use, this activity is short but effective. I equate this animation to a live version of the typical radiation budget diagram shown in almost all middle school and high school textbooks.

12
Raindrops in the Water Cycle

As part of a series of animations, students can watch a raindrop as it makes its way through the water cycle on earth. Placing a cursor over key areas will produce a text box explaining the steps of the hydrological cycle. Because of the nature of the topic, this animation is best suited for a younger audience.

13
Advanced Meteorology Animations

Using specific events and data from past storms, this site aims to teach meteorology to more advanced students by having them understand the associated weather maps. Users can set the animation speed and discuss the weather maps shown.

14
Global Warming: Virtual Science Courseware

This global warming activity is a must-see weather lesson. I cannot say enough good things about the virtual ScienceCourseware.org site. I have used the online earthquake lab in my own classroom year after year. Expect to explore human and naturally induced climate change as well as discussions for the future. Teachers have to be very familiar with the lesson in order to help students through the activity.

15
Weather Second Life Virtual Field Trip

Using an avatar, users can enter into a Second Life virtual world and explore meteorology. The Earth System Research Lab (ESRL) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been developing a weather and ocean tour that puts you in control of a virtual weather world known as "Meteora". While this resource takes longer to set up, I have given a full description of how to set up the Meteora program.

16
Birth of a Tornado

This graphic is a bit more detailed in showing the development of a tornado with fewer words. I like how this one shows the frontal systems necessary for the development of severe weather and tornadoes.

17
Tornado Formation and Safety Tips

USA Today offers this simple graphic to introduce tornado formation. Users slide a button through the stages of severe thunderstorm development and end with a discussion of tornado safety tips.

18
The Electromagnetic Spectrum

An interactive electromagnetic spectrum is the focus of this visualization. Users can click on any part of the spectrum to read about infrared light, visible light, gamma rays, and the rest of the solar spectrum. An excellent tool for understanding basic radiation concepts in any earth science, physics, or chemistry class.

19
19 Global Climate Animations

The Department of Geography from the University of Oregon presents 19 climate animations covering latent heat, net radiation, heat storage, air temperature, precipitable water vapor, global evaporation, run-off, sea level change, wind vectors, and more. These are a great tool for a comparative analysis in the classroom.

20
Beginners Guide to Contour Lines, Isobars, and Isotherms

Users can get a basic lesson on how to draw isobar or pressure lines on a weather map. Once students move through the beginning lesson, there are 6 more Contour Line Lessons that can be completed for students learning to draw weather maps for forecasting.

21
The Baseball and Air Density Experiment

While a bit more related to physics, this fun activity teaches students about the speed and angle of a fly ball in one of 7 famous baseball stadiums. The key feature of the activity is the altitude of the stadium which demonstrates the effect of air density at various altitudes on a baseball.

22
Air Pressure and Altitude

This classzone animation shows the changes in air pressure with height. This animation would be a perfect companion to a lesson on radiosondes.

23
El Niño & La Niña

The development of normal, El Niño, and La Niña conditions are demonstrated using this Prentice Hall animation. The easy to follow diagram can have the labels turned of for describing the process to students. Another great idea is to use the animation as a quiz for students.

24
Meteorology Slideshare

Sharing presentations is easy with these weather related presentations. Teachers, meteorologists and students can share their presentation online. A great tool when you don't have the time to create a presentation from scratch.

25
Tornado Formation from Prentice Hall

The tornado formation animation is an excellent tool from Prentice Hall. The creation of a tornado can be hard to understand for many people. This animation provides an opportunity to turn off the labels for use with younger students.

26
The Greenhouse Effect

A simple model of the greenhouse effect is displayed in this animation. Because the user must press play frequently throughout the visualization, this one would be perfect for using on an interactive whiteboard.

27
Land and Sea Breezes

The unequal heating of earth can be observed in many locations. Here, land and sea breezes are examined.

28
The Powers of 10: Weather and Climate Timeline

A simple exploration of the causes and history of climate change research are presented using the infamous Powers of 10 concept. While this tutorial is mostly an interactive with resultant articles attached to the buttons, it is an important part of understanding how and why climate change is studied.

29
The Inside of a Tornado

In the manner of the movie Twister, storm chasers use multiple video cameras to catch a glimpse inside a tornado courtesy of National Geographic. Tim Samaras captures footage inside the tornado providing data on wind speeds and damages. While not an animation, this video really gives users a feel for the destructive power of a tornado.

30
Fujita Scale

The Fujita Tornado Intensity Scale is used to determine the destructive forces of a tornado. Developed by Dr. Ted Fujita, this scale has gone through some recent enhancements and is known as the Enhanced Fujita Scale. This animation shows the enhanced scale as users manipulate wind speed and core pressure to make small and large tornadoes. This one even has a flying cow!

31
Relative Humidity

Determining the effects of relative humidity outside your home on your heating and air conditioning bill are easy to understand in this animation. Users change the temperature and dew point to determine the inside relative humidity. While no dollar amounts are given for energy savings, the lesson for environmental protection and wise use of energy are well demonstrated.

32
Station Model Diagrams

A station model is a weather symbol used to give detailed weather data in a short-hand format. In this animation, students choose a city and a new window pops up showing the station model diagram for that city. Unfortunately, all of the cities listed are in Wisconsin, but even if you do not live in the area, the representation of the weather station model is shown with high accuracy and detail.

33
Warm Fronts, Cold Fronts, and Occluded Fronts

Drawing frontal systems using a station model diagram map can be a difficult task to learn. This animation allows students to draw warm front, cold fronts, and occluded fronts on a map containing live data. Students must also look at the zones of high and low pressure and determine the best placement for the frontal system. There is a button to also check your answers. Be patient in loading the applet because it can be slow, but it is worth the wait.

34
NOAA Environmental Visualizations Program

While not one specific visualization, this link takes you to hundreds of animated sequences on current data. Users looking for recent satellite imagery and storms will find a wealth of information available by year or storm type.

35
Warm and Cold Fronts: Compare and Contrast

Comparing the density and temperature of two air masses when a warm and cold front approaches in important. While I like this animation, it is a part of Teachersdomain.org. I love the site, but some users may be turned off by the need to create a registration. I personally have no problem with it if I get high quality materials, but others may not appreciate it.