How Weather Works invites visitors to learn how weather patterns are formed and examine how human activity affects weather.
For everyone who wonders why Lubbock is so windy in the spring, how it can be shorts weather in February and parka weather in March or what causes tornadoes, hurricanes and blizzards to hit where they do, come to the Museum of Texas Tech University. Visitors will find these answers and more in a fun, interactive new exhibit that explains how weather begins and how it all works.
Hint: It all starts with the sun and the rotation of the Earth.
How Weather Works: Understanding Our Place Between the Sun and a Storm opens Sunday (June 26) and allows visitors of all ages to start at the sun, create atmospheric pressure, explore the Earth's spin and the jet stream and learn about the many powerful aspects of storms such as tornadoes, haboobs, hail and lightning. The exhibit includes a section on how chaos, or altering one or many components of the atmosphere, can affect weather.
The exhibit showcases research led by Brian Ancell, an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences, Atmospheric Science Group, who received an Early CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation. In addition
to educator resource kits for local teachers and weather summer camps for middle school-age
children, he coordinated with the museum to create this exhibit, which brings weather
down to eye level and highlights how human activity can affect weather patterns.
“The driving research focuses on inadvertent weather modification, or how human activities such as irrigation, wind farms and urban heat islands can change the weather non-locally, or far away from the source,” Ancell said.
The exhibit is split into two sections. The first covers the basic atmospheric principles that create weather, starting from the sun and the rotation of the Earth and ending with small-scale weather features like thunderstorms. Visitors will get to stand between the Earth and the sun and take temperature readings with an infrared gun, then learn how the uneven heating of the tilted Earth creates atmospheric pressure, which then creates wind. They also will explore the Coriolis Effect, which explains how the Earth's rotation leads to the jet stream and how weather systems work.
Visitors then move into a simulated immersive storm experience and learn about the formation of tornadoes, thunder, lightning, hail and dust storms, with a weather alert broadcast in the background and motion-activated thunderstorm above.
The second part of the exhibit discusses chaos and inadvertent weather modification, which is the focus of Ancell's research. Visitors will use a Plinko board representing the Texas-Louisiana coastline to show how minute variations can alter the path of pucks representing hurricanes.
This section also looks at how wind turbines remove energy from the atmosphere and how this affects the wind patterns. It will be updated throughout the duration of the exhibit as Ancell continues his research.
“Chaos is the reason why small changes to the atmosphere, such as those resulting from irrigation or wind farms, can grow to be large, modifying larger scale weather features well away from the changes in the first place,” Ancell said.
The museum, located at 3301 4th St., is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. In addition, the museum is hosting a weather panel at 6 p.m. Friday in the Helen DeVitt Jones auditorium – entry is through the west doors. Ancell, local meteorologist Matt Ernst and Justin Weaver from the National Weather Service will discuss weather patterns and answer questions.