Press Release


By SpaceRef Editor
January 14, 2000
Filed under

1) Welcome and Overview

2) LFSTORM Project News

3) The “100% VIDEO + 100% HANDS-ON + 100% ONLINE” PTK model

4) Project Implementation Timetable: some options

5) Instructional Materials for School or Home

6) JOURNAL: Kevin Kloesel chases a tornado: Hugh Willoughby on flying
through a hurricane

7) Web Sites of the Week: AMS, NSSL-NOAA, USA Today

8) “Coming Attractions” In Your Next UPDATE

9) How to Subscribe to DISCUSS-STORM and UPDATES-STORM


The PTK Mission:

to enliven the curriculum by connecting real world research to essential
science concepts
to facilitate interaction between leading scientists and K-12 students and


1) Welcome to LIVE FROM THE STORM!

Welcome to LIVE FROM THE STORM, the 9th curriculum replacement unit offered
by PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE–public television’s longest-running series of
interactive learning adventures–and to UPDATES-STORM #2, our first weekly
edition of the New Millennium. Subject, of course, to severe weather (!) we
plan to publish an UPDATES every Friday from now on, through the end of the
school year.

UPDATES is the project’s online bulletin, providing the latest news,
information and reminders about important dates and resources. UPDATES also
serves as a vehicle to share BIOGRAPHIES and FIELD JOURNALS from
participating researchers via e-mail, as well as WEB SITES OF THE WEEK.
You’re invited to forward UPDATES to any and all colleagues who may be
interested. This and all subsequent editions are also accessible at the
LIVE FROM THE STORM website. We hope you’ve already visited and bookmarked
the Preview site:

The full site will debut at the end of January 2000, but will continue to
grow with new information and images throughout the coming months.

UPDATES #2 provides an overview of what’s in the works for LIVE FROM THE
STORM, some headlines about key components of the project, and some
suggestions about how to make PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE’s unique mix of…

“100% VIDEO + 100% HANDS-ON + 100% ONLINE”

…into a 1,000% successful interactive learning experience which we hope
will be both richly informative and great fun for teachers and students alike.

To help you plan ahead, we also provide some key project dates, and targets
for when what resources will become available. Through cooperation with
LIVE FROM THE STORM’s key partners at NOAA and NASA, there’ll be some
incredible opportunities for students, and we hope you and your classes
will be traveling with us to explore weather and climate via video and the

In this UPDATES, be sure to read Kevin Kloesel’s adrenalin-filled
description of chasing tornadoes as part of the highly successful VORTEX
project, headed by Erik Rasmussen, who’ll be working with PTK on LIVE FROM
THE STORM. This is scientific research as eXtreme sport, rivaling anything
on ESPN or MTV–but also be sure to note our warnings always to follow
appropriate safety procedures when encountering wild weather–as do all
responsible weather researchers. Indeed, we hope that LIVE FROM THE STORM
will add to students’ awareness of personal and family safety as well as
enlivening the underlying science.

If someone forwarded this UPDATES to you and you wish to subscribe
directly, send e-mail to
and in the message body write only: subscribe updates-storm (See below for
more details about how to subscribe.) You can also subscribe to both
UPDATES and DISCUSS right on the LIVE FROM THE STORM Preview website
(address above.)



Please repeat to your students at every opportunity that “Mother Nature” is
not to be trifled with. They should, for example, leave the ball field when
thunderstorms are imminent. Taking a video camera to the beach to wait for
a hurricane’s landfall is not to be encouraged. On a hike when there’s
heavy rain? Be on the lookout for places where flash floods might become
deadly. See some excellent suggestions for safety precautions at the web
sites of NOAA, FEMA and the Red Cross. Follow the authoritative advise of
weather experts, not what you happen to see on TV: do not, for example,
wait out a tornado under a highway underpass. There’s a good chance you’ll
be sucked out and killed, rather than left in safety. The LIVE FROM THE
STORM Guide will have several research and writing Activities which will
expose students to emergency preparedness issues, and we’ll provide–in
this and subsequent UPDATES–web sites with sound information. Our
materials will repeat these necessary warnings until, we hope, they’re
“second nature” for your students.


2) LFSTORM Project News

Hurricanes… tornadoes… winter storms… El Niño and La Niña… no
matter where you live weather and climate impact your daily existence, and
these 4 phenomena will be our focus in LIVE FROM THE STORM. But we’ll be
using these extremes and the impressive visuals depicting them to bring to
life the fundamental forces which shape all weather–the Sun’s energy and
seasonal variations in day and night; how ocean and land warm and cool in
different ways; how pressure gradients give birth to the winds. Nearly all
schools deal with weather and climate in one or more grades, and LIVE FROM
THE STORM will offer educationally effective materials and experiences for
all grade levels.

Our video crews have been to the West Coast of Africa to document
experiments tracking the birth of East Coast (of the United States)
hurricanes. We’ve flown through the eye of a hurricane with NOAA
researchers seeking clues to where the storm will go and how intense it
will become. Soon we’ll be on location in Utah with scientists using
planes, balloons and “Doppler On Wheels” to study winter storms and intense
snowfall. Later this Spring we’ll be out on the Plains following the
researchers who chase tornadoes (see the BIO following), trying to find out
what makes some 25% of intense super-cell thunderstorms give birth to
twisters. Our editing room is awash with amazing visualizations from NOAA,
NCAR (the National Center for Atmospheric Research) and NASA, which show
the origin and evolution of storms and severe weather of all kinds. All
those popular specials you’ve seen on cable, with spectacular disaster
footage that promise to explore your world? LIVE FROM THE STORM will go
further: our videos (dates and details below) will help you as an
educator >EXPLAIN< our world.

We’re in final draft on a 64-page Teacher’s Guide, similar in form and
substance to those which have accompanied LIVE FROM ANTARCTICA, LIVE FROM
classroom teachers working closely with media producers and working
researchers, there’ll be more than 20 hands-on Activities directly related
to the real-world weather seen on camera. Following the pedagogically-sound
ENGAGE, EXPLORE, EXPLAIN, EXPAND format–highly-rated in our previous
Guides–the STORM Guide provides a menu of options adaptable to just about
any classroom, no matter your level of technology or prior professional
knowledge of weather and climate. Unlike previous PTK Modules, this time
the Guide and accompanying student worksheets will be accessible online in
PDF format, as well as in a convenient printed format in order to maximize

Online you can already sign up for UPDATES and DISCUSS–our online forum
for teacher-with-teacher sharing. Our full-featured website will debut
February 1. We’ve tried to make this a comprehensive companion to the video
and hands-on activities, specific to LIVE FROM THE STORM, while also
ensuring it’s a “portal” to the wealth of excellent weather and climate
materials already available on the web. You’ll find explanatory animations,
take you behind the scenes to experience the personal stories of weather
researchers, and much more.

PTK is just back from the annual meeting of the American Meteorological
Society where we sat in on fascinating discussions of “tornadogenesis” (why
and how tornadoes form), “climate forecasting” and many more cutting-edge
presentations. Still more importantly we were able to confirm the active
support of key NOAA researchers as collaborators with PTK to open up the
world of weather and climate and to share it, via video and the Net, with
you and your students.

Awesome images, fascinating characters, fundamental science–we think LIVE
FROM THE STORM is going to be one of the best PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE
adventures yet!

Questions??? (or to order LIVE FROM THE STORM materials) Send e-mail to and PTK will get back to you in a flash!


3) The “100% VIDEO + 100% HANDS-ON + 100% ONLINE” PTK model

>>>2 primetime quality, hour-long videos–FREE via public television and
>>>20+ hands-on Activities published online–FREE (also available in
low-cost printed format: see below)
>>>website rich with information and dynamic images, and teacher-reviewed
links to the best weather sites on the WWW–FREE

>>>LIVE FROM THE STORM–priceless!

Yes, all those commercials for credit cards do have an impact! But how can
three FREE things add up to something PRICELESS? We think the 3 different
media each contribute some unique learning experiences: combine all of them
and your students will have the most exciting and intellectually-engaging
experience possible.


The 2 hour long videos provide the real-world CONTEXT for the project. The
programs are offered free to all public television stations, and will also
be accessible directly by schools, educational networks and sustaining
cable services from an analog Ku-band transponder. Subject to agency events
and last-minute pre-emptions, NASA-TV will also carry the programs on its
C-band satellite. More details about how to access the videos will appear
in future UPDATES.

Within one week of premiere broadcast the videos will also be available on
videotape direct from PTK: details online.

Fly through a hurricane* sail across the Pacific to take the ocean‚s
temperature* see how and why researchers chase tornadoes safely! How key
scientific principles such as heat and pressure produce storms and
influence the climate and why weather appears where and when it does.
Tuesday March 7, 2000, 13:00 hours Eastern


Why America has some of the wildest weather anywhere on Earth and how we
can live with it. Real time interaction with NOAA researchers on location
at the National Severe Storms Laboratory and in the Storm Prediction
Center, in Norman, OK and elsewhere around the nation and the planet. How
cutting-edge research and new technologies such as Doppler radar,
satellites and computers can make our lives safer.
Tuesday April 11, 2000, 13:00 hours Eastern

In addition to explaining the principles of weather through graphic
animation and documentary sequences, the videos also serve to introduce the
enthusiastic men and women who study weather and climate, and who build the
tools (the planes, computers and other instruments) we use to understand
the world around us. We expect your students will also find some
inspirational role models in these adventurous and committed characters,
demonstrating just how exciting it can be to put the math and science
learned at school to work as a PASSPORT to a career in cutting-edge research.

PTK will provide information online about which public television stations
are carrying the programs live, or on tape at a later date. But, as the
saying goes: PLEASE CHECK LOCAL LISTINGS to confirm plans for your area.

Please send e-mail to: to indicate if your
school or district intends to view or record the programs DIRECT from
satellite (i.e. rather than via re-broadcast by your local PBS station or
NASA-TV.) By return e-mail you’ll receive a confirmation of the technical


The hands-on Activities bring the essential science concepts embodied in
the National Science Education Standards, AAAS’s Benchmarks and state
frameworks to life in easy-to-implement but memorable learning experiences,
using inexpensive materials and teacher-tested procedures. (The Guide will
contain a correlation sheet denoting which specific standards are targeted
with each Activity.) Build a “Doppler Radar” in a shoebox, and experiment
with “reflectivity” and “velocity modes” to detect severe or milder
weather. Use a leafblower to test the design of your “Hurricane House”, and
understand the destructive potential of tropical storms. Model the
greenhouse effect, or El Niño, make a twister or clouds, get literary with
“Writing Up a Storm”, or work with numbers to compare the size of
hurricanes and tornadoes. Next UPDATES will have a full Table of Contents
for the Guide to give you still more information about this crucial
component of the project.


Not every school can participate in the live and taped videos, but
“anytime, anywhere” students can send e-mail via RESEARCHER Q&A and get
back individual answers from the leading scientists they’ll see on camera
or read about online. There’ll be WEBCHATS for teachers and for students,
putting the interactive potential of the Net to work. And–for the first
time in any PTK project–there’ll be “LIVE FROM… TV” on the web,
streaming video reports from NOAA’s National Severe Storm’s labs, making
that day’s tornado chase accessible to all within hours, thanks in part to
project partners at IBM and Avid.

We can’t promise flying cows like in the great action-adventure movie,
TWISTER, which your students may have seen (researchers tell us that even
if cows did levitate, pressures in the suction vortex would mean they’d not
be able to MOO: how’s that for scientists seeking 100% accuracy!) but we
can promise the thrill of the chase as a way to help students understand
what we already know about tornadoes, and what we still need to know to
make forecasts still better and improve public safety.

Each UPDATES will share more about our online resources. We also hope
you’ll use the Net to interact with PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE, providing us
with input as to what you and your students would like to know and
experience. Unlike primetime TV, we’re “all ears”, as a former presidential
candidate once said.

That’s a little about the 3 components of our project. But as our “100% +
100% + 100%” slogan suggests, we’re sure the whole project is more than the
sum of its parts. How can we say that? As part of our previous NSF grant,
an extensive evaluation found that PTK quantitatively boosted student
mastery of content, improved attitudes to science and technology, as well
as allowing students to practise the research skills of the Information
Age. You can read more under ASSESSMENT in the TEACHERS section of the LIVE
FROM THE SUN website (


4) Project Implementation Timetable
Educators have told us that one of the strengths of PTK projects is their
flexibility. You can use the videos live as an “event”, or on tape in 10-15
minute segments if you prefer. You can use the online components if there’s
just one computer in your room (or home–PTK also works for
home-schoolers), or teach in a 20-machine lab. with a T-1 line (Yes, we’re
jealous!) But we’ve also found that teachers–especially newcomers to
PTK–like to know at least one path through the rich resources we offer.
This section provides just that, and headlines the dates at which the
various components will become available.

Another thing that’s certain is that if you have QUESTIONS about how to
implement the project successfully, we have ANSWERS: you’re invited to use
the DISCUSS-STORM mail list to query online moderator Eileen Bendixsen and
a wonderful cadre of “virtual faculty” all across the nation, some of whom
are PTK vets. from LIVE FROM ANTARCTICA (’94-’95) onwards. When we began we
never realized what a powerful resource DISCUSS would become: teachers
sharing challenges and opportunities with other teachers, reaching out from
isolation to gather the neatest ideas and suggestions.


Now through March 1:
Teachers prepare, using online resources such as UPDATES and DISCUSS

March 1-April 11:
Implement LIVE FROM THE STORM in class with students

April 11:
Participate live with students across the nation during the RESEARCH TO THE
RESCUE program

April 11-end of the school year:
Participate on your own schedule in the online interactive opportunities.

Here’s the details of what LIVE FROM THE STORM plans to offer: any changes
of date or event will also appear online:

DISCUSS-STORM educator forum: see elsewhere in this UPDATE for how to

see elsewhere in this UPDATE for how to subscribe

and will grow throughout the remainder of the school year

students invited to begin “Writing Up a Storm” and “The Great Emergency
Preparedness PSA Contest”
weekly Challenge Questions (science brain-teasers) begin in UPDATES

moderated real-time forums involving the PTK teacher development team
allows newcomer and veteran teachers to ask any and all questions about
the project

Guide and worksheet available in PDF format

weekly webchats with weather scientists (from February through May)
participate with other classes in real-time interaction with NOAA researchers

see below for more details of Instructional Materials available and costs

via streaming video and online e-mail, direct from NOAA’s National Severe
Storms Lab., in Norman, OK
find out the latest from tornado researchers and what’s to be expected in
the coming tornado season
PTK moderator Eileen Bendixsen serves as the LIVE FROM moderator, helping
to interpret research for fellow-educators

MARCH 7: PROGRAM 1 AIRS (see above for details)
magazine-style program provides 8-10 minute segments
teachers use videos with the Guide, hands-on Activities, and website,
to explore weather and climate with students


APRIL 11: PROGRAM 2 (see above for details)

winning PSAs webcast as streaming video

streaming video of tornado season events
researcher webchats
student-to-student and teacher-with-teacher interaction,
and more…

MAY 30: LIVE FROM THE STORM ends interactive phase for 1999-2000 school year.


5) LIVE FROM THE STORM Instructional Materials for School or Home

Teacher’s Guide (64 pp), copy masters of student worksheets, and oversize
full color poster
includes shipping (US priority mail standard) and handling

Teacher’s Guide Pack: includes all above
60 minute Teacher Resource Video with activity demos by master teachers
Preview of video programs showing PEOPLE, PLACES and PROCESSES
Animations of hurricanes, tornadoes, El Niño, and more

Each video program, $29.98; both videos $59.95

PASSPORT TO WEATHER AND CLIMATE Multiple Media Kit–available summer 2000

Questions about any instructional materials? E-mail: and we’ll be back to you in a flash!



Kevin Kloesel, Oklahoma Climate Study–NOAA Liaison

Hugh Willoughby, Hurricane Research Division, NOAA/AOML, Miami

Ed. note: we first read this exciting diary of a day spent chasing
tornadoes when it was sent to us by a member of the STORM materials
development team, via the FLORIDA EXPLORES remote sensing educational
project. We met up with Kevin this week at AMS, confirmed his permission to
share this “stream of consciousness” report, and promise of future
cooperation. His JOURNAL reminded us of some of the remarks from hurricane
researcher Hugh Willoughby about danger and safety which we first published
last century (literally), but which seemed newly relevant. Since there are
many newcomers to the list, they’re repeated here.


Date: Thu, 27 May 1999 02:23:32 -0500

From: Kevin Kloesel

Don’t look at the time on this message! It got too good to leave! HaHaHa!
We just crashed at a Holiday Inn in Odessa: now if the adrenaline would
just wear off!

We had some chase tonight… yesterday was cool, we did 704 miles, and the
stories would have been cool–at least until today. Today was
unbelievable… 450 miles…which culminated in a 300 meter tornado genesis

Ever been directly beneath a mesocyclone? Twice in one evening? The latter
in pitch black? We had 1,200 lightning strokes in 10 minutes so we could
see everything in ‘strobe effect’! Anyway, we dented the DOW (ed: Doppler
On Wheels–the mobile radars on small trucks used to get close-up, highly
revealing radar images of what the winds inside a hurricane are doing) big
time, cracked the industrial strength anemometer and lost some windshields
of the ‘ducklings’ (the chase escort cars–they follow the DOW and stay out
of my way when I want gasoline!)

Pitch black, lightning everywhere, baseball sized hail, being driven into
the right side of the vehicle by 60+ winds…in a multi-ton truck with
$300,000 worth of equipment, and Josh (Oklahoma University researcher Josh
Wurman) in the back calmly saying “we’re right under the hook, keep up your
speed and we’ll live.” 30 seconds later (it seemed longer!) we were on the
southwest side as it dropped a tornado just east of our location. We were
in a ‘run away’ mode on roads that are tough to chase on. Unfortunately,
the storm surged southeast on us, cranking its forward speed to 40 (from 30
as we had tracked for the previous hour).

Our only escape route was to head southwest (we were due east of the
mesocyclone, but directly in the path of the hail core which had grapefruit
size hail in it) so Josh decided we could outrun the storm to the SW
(rather than let the meso slide to our SW and us be destroyed by hail.) We
almost beat it, but we got to the same point at the same time. What a ride!
Check out the Weather Channel video, they were in the car behind me and had
windshield damage and a vehicle with more dents than a golf ball. Their
crew just uploaded the video to Atlanta… they will probably show some
tomorrow. I’ve NEVER seen anything like it… horizontal wind driven hail
in a mesocyclone!!! Can you tell I could do this for a while???

I am driving DOW 3 back tomorrow…(Oh, DOW 2 didn’t survive the first
day… 🙂 )


Dr. Kevin Kloesel

Distance Education Director / NOAA Liaison

Oklahoma Climatological Survey, Norman, OK

“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity” (Darrell Royal)


Someone who’ll appear in the first video is Hugh Willoughy, head of the
Hurricane Research Division at NOAA’s AOML in Miami. He’s “penetrated”
(flown through) some 600 hurricanes. Right after our crew flew through
1999’s Dennis, we spoke with Hugh about his feelings when encountering
Nature’s most massive storms up close and personal.

“Scary moments? Well, the joke, I suppose, is all of them! I have had some
very scary experiences, but the most frightening ones have come from the
normal things that happen in aviation. The most scary one was when we had
an aborted takeoff, when we had a huge amount of gas on the airplane and it
was not obvious we would be able to stop before we got to the end of the

We get into moderate turbulence–moderate turbulence is where other
passengers get visibly nervous in a commercial airline flight–we get into
that fairly often, and then every once in a while we get into severe
turbulence, which really gets your attention. The pilot loses control of
the aircraft for brief intervals. If airplane is flown properly, there is
no danger of structural failure

We‚ve never done serious damage to the airplane. We‚ve banged up the
interior with things coming loose and bouncing around. We‚ve started oil
leaks by flying in hail. We‚ve cracked radomes, we‚ve sanded the paint off
leading edges in hail, but we‚ve never actually ‘bent’ an airplane, which
is kinda comforting. I think we do this in a safe way. Aircraft are well
maintained and flown by people who really know what they are doing.

There‚s a famous quote that gets trotted out every hurricane season, from
the polar explorer, Amundsen, who said when you go to explore the Arctic,
and similarly when you go hurricane flying, the whole idea is NOT to have
an adventure: adventures are for incompetents. We try very hard not to have
‘adventures.’ But there are a lot of times when you go out to the airplane
and the Sun is just coming up and you know you are going out to fly into a
raging hurricane, it‚s kind of a neat way to make a living and I would not
have traded the experience for anything.”

As noted above, nothing we will do or show during LIVE FROM THE STORM will
encourage students to “do this at home.” The NOAA researchers and their
university colleagues, as well as the “spotters” who are so essential to
National Weather Service operations all know that safety comes first, and
science second. But as viewers will see and read, weather research is still
a very exciting experience!

Next UPDATES: an insider’s view of what it’s like in a NOAA/National
Weather Service office as tornadoes touch down close by, and life-saving
Warnings are issued to the community. It makes “NYPD Blue” look tame, and
you’ll understand that NWS staff are just as heroic and hard-working as the
men and women of “ER.” But this is real life as well as real science.


7) Websites of the Week: AMS, NSSL, USA Today, and more!

Each UPDATES we bring you links to some of the best websites relating to
the weather and climate, with potted reviews from working educators. If you
have your own suggestions, please share them with your peers and PTK via
DISCUSS-STORM, or e-mail them directly to

One of the main educational activities of the American Meteorological
Society is “Datastreme.”. Initially supported by NSF it continues to
provide excellent resources for use in class. You’ll get the most out of it
if you go through the training (which one of LFSTORM’s teacher-developers
did last semester, but even without the course, you’ll find very many
useful resources, including US weather maps and templates for student activity.
(or direct from the AMS site:

The National Severe Storms Laboratory “Weather Room.”
The “What, Where, Why and How” of tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning and
thunderstorms plus a section on weather careers and an FAQ. LIVE FROM THE
STORM will be working very closely with the NSSL/Storm Prediction Center
team in preparation for the Spring programs.

“USA Today” has many excellent weather resources, developed under the
supervision of editor Jack Williams (whose “Weather Book” is an invaluable
and highly-readable resource for teachers and students) and assistant
editor, Chris Cappella. PTK hopes to work closely with “USA Today” during
LIVE FROM THE STORM (stay tuned for more new) and as you check out the
animations of tornadoes and hurricanes and “breaking news”, you’ll know why!

More great links next time!


8) Next UPDATE!

Next week, in UPDATES-STORM #3

Inside a “Weather ER” * sneak peak at the contents of the Teacher’s Guide *
more on the streaming video and webchat components of LFSTORM * more great
websites, and the latest project news!


9) How to Subscribe to DISCUSS-STORM and UPDATES-STORM

In addition to these UPDATES, PTK also offers an online discussion group
via e-mail for educators and others planning to use the project, which
allows teachers to share ideas and successes, ask questions, discuss
problems, make suggestions, etc.

To subscribe to DISCUSS-STORM send e-mail to:

and in the body of the message write only:

subscribe discuss-storm

(Be sure to turn off your “signature”, or add the word on the line
FOLLOWING , e.g. NOT on the same line.)

To be removed from the UPDATES or DISCUSS list at any time, follow the same
instructions but type in the body of the message. For
example, put either:

unsubscribe discuss-storm


unsubscribe updates-storm

and you will be removed from the respective list.

If you have any problems subscribing or unsubscribing please e-mail Eileen
Bendixsen, moderator for the LIVE FROM THE STORM/discuss-storm mail list, at:


We hope you’ll continue to use UPDATES to keep abreast of LIVE FROM THE
STORM news, and DISCUSS to let the PTK/LFSTORM team and your colleagues
know what’s on your mind. Weather and climate affect us all, every day. Now
you can bring all the excitement of tracking and studying wild weather to
your classroom to energize your regular course of instruction. Just as
Kevin and Hugh say, it’s going to be a bumpy but exciting ride!

Onwards and Upwards!
Eileen Bendixsen, Middle School Science Teacher, & Moderator, DISCUSS-STORM
Geoff Haines-Stiles, Project Director, PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE

SpaceRef staff editor.