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The City Journals

Elk Meadows Students Get Lesson About Forecasting Weather

Jan 26, 2016 12:39PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

South Jordan - Elk Meadows fourth graders know more about what causes the weather and how it is forecast, thanks to a visit from meteorologist Dan Guthrie.

“If I can teach them the basics, then they’ll be able to answer a few questions that may pop up on the SAGE state test or understand more about forecasting weather so they are better prepared,” Guthrie said, who has been broadcasting weather reports on television locally for the past two years.

His Jan. 7 presentation is an introduction to the weather unit that fourth graders will study this spring as part of the state core curriculum, teacher Angie Marsden said.

“Our curriculum measures the weather and how we observe it, record it, understand it and what it tells us,” she said. “I hope he piqued the students’ interest in why we care about weather, and they’ll remember this as we study it.”

When Guthrie asked about why people care about the weather, student answers ranged from what they will wear or do outside to how it affects travel and if it would cause a flood in Southern Utah or an avalanche at a ski resort or canyon.

“Utah weather is different than other states since we know we have snow in our high alpine climate, but it is hot in our desert climate,” he said, adding that Utah is the second driest state behind Nevada, and the amount of moisture Utahns receive also dictates sprinkler use in the summer.

He also pointed out the Wasatch Front’s inversions also dictate students’ activities.

“With an inversion and poor air quality that result in really cold temperatures, you know it likely will be an inside recess day,” he said.

Guthrie proceeded to explain to students how cold air gets trapped below high pressure that causes the inversions.

Although many students claimed to like the high pressure days best that produce sunny weather, Guthrie prefers low pressure that “isn’t as boring to forecast” since it’s filled with storms, fog and inclement weather.

“I like both high and low pressure days,” fourth-grade student Tai Tuatagaloa said. “I plan to watch the weather more now and will understand what he’s saying and what all the symbols mean.”

Then, Guthrie posed a question to students: “Why does Utah have the greatest snow on earth?” He explained to them about dry, powder snow that isn’t moist enough to pack a snowball, but attractive enough to “have people come from all over the world to play in our mountains to ski and snowboard.”

Wet snow, he said, can make it difficult to drive when it’s on the roads and causes avalanches.

Many students also were unaware of Utah having tornados, including the one that hit Salt Lake City on Aug. 11, 1999. He taught them that tornados occur with a mix of both moist and dry air, and the best place to go to protect themselves from a tornado is underground or in a central room without windows.

“I didn’t know what makes a tornado or what a vortex was,” fourth-grader Ryan Villagomez said, adding that he appreciated seeing photos of the tornado that hit downtown, then went by the state capitol building and Memory Grove.

His classmate, Ella Cowley, said she has experienced hurricanes when she lived in North Carolina.

“Learning about weather more helps me to understand why things happen and how to prepare and dress for the day,” she said. “If it’s warm, high pressure day, I can have a pool party or go to Seven Peaks. If it’s snowy, because of low pressure, I can build a snowman. It’s exciting to learn new things and learn what’s going on.”

Guthrie went on to answer questions from how weather balloons work by taking three-dimensional photos of the atmosphere every four hours to how he presents the weather on television in front of a green screen.

When asked “how often are you correct with forecasting the weather,” Guthrie said that forecasting the weather has improved with technology, and now they can predict it one week to 10 days in advance rather than just a few days.

“Pretty soon if we get any more accurate, I’ll be out of a job forecasting it,” he said