Remember those early winter mornings...all bundled up, scraping the windshield, struggling to start the car and staggering into a warm school building. As we dashed to find a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, the topic of conversation for many on a morning like that was, "How cold was it at your house this morning?" "Ten below at my house...huh...It was only five below at my house." Why the difference? We live in the same community.

The Student Weather Network is designed to employ a highly trained work force (students) to help analyze your community's morning low temperature readings. Students become involved with collecting, analyzing and presenting data, much the way that scientists do. They compare readings with fellow classmates down the street and across town. All that is needed is a simple outdoor thermometer, a log sheet and graph paper.

In a recent conversation with a spokesperson from the National Weather Service, it was learned that temperature sensors, or thermometers, should be located about 5 feet above the ground and placed in such a way that they do not come into contact with any surrounding building. The thermometer should not receive any direct sunlight. For commercial recording purposes, the sensor or thermometer is usually located in an enclosed, vented housing. For the purpose of this project, the sun should not be a factor, as our readings are taken at around 6:30 am. You should, however, make every attempt to locate your thermometer at least a foot or two away from the house.

Determine the differences in temperature across your town

  1. Obtain a map of your town showing streets where your students live.
  2. Ask students to observe and record the temperature outside their houses at the same time every day. Readings taken between 6:30 and 7:00 am are fine. This keeps data both accurate and meaningful. On school days, most students are awake at this time, and this is usually the coldest time of the day, just before sunrise.
  3. Students should record and graph their temperature readings daily for a month.
  4. How can students be sure that their thermometers are accurate? The easiest way is to compare the readings from several thermometers placed at the same location. If two are used, simply average the two. Also, consider comparing readings with a neighbor.
  5. Determine the mean temperature at each student's house and plot it on the town map. Examine the map for trends and discuss possible reasons for them.
  6. Have the students take a look at daily satellite images to make the comparison between the local weather and weather in a larger geographical area.

Weather Radio

A very good source of accurate climate data, as well as local forecast information, is available through NOAA weather radio. In the Portland, Maine area, a continuous broadcast is repeated on the frequency of 162.55 MHz. If you have a programmable scanner, try entering that frequency. Specialized NOAA weather radios are available at electronics stores for less than twenty dollars.

Materials

  • an outdoor thermometer at each student's home
  • town map
  • log form
  • graph paper