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Fallout!

From: The Path of Pollution (http://www.tnrcc.state.tx.us/air/monops/lessons/pathlesson.html) and
Tracing Atmospheric Winds
(http://www.msnucleus.org/membership/html/k-6/wc/atmosphere/6/wcat6_2a.html)
Modified By: Kirstin A. Bittel


Time: 1-2 Class Periods
Preparation Time: 10-15 minutes making copies
Materials: Maps of the World
Maps of the United States
Handout 1 – Chernobyl (1 per laboratory table)
Handout 2 – Mt. St. Helens (1 per laboratory table)

Abstract
In this lesson, students will plot the locations of fallout from two disasters that polluted much of the world’s air. First, they will plot the ash fallout from the 1980 Mt. St. Helen’s eruption to see what the wind patterns in the United States look like overall. Next they will plot the fallout from the explosion at Chernobyl in 1986 to see what wind patterns over Europe are like overall.

Purpose – Engagement of students in tracking the movement of the Trades, Westerlies, and Polar Winds by studying pollution fallout.

Objectives
Students will be able to:
1. Locate and plot an area’s fallout traveled to on a map
2. Describe the direction of the pollution flow
3. Explain how tracking pollution flow can explain wind patterns

National Science Education Standard:
CONTENT STANDARD D: Earth and Space Science
ENERGY IN THE EARTH SYSTEM
• Earth systems have internal and external sources of energy, both of which create heat. The sun is the major external source of energy. Two primary sources of internal energy are the decay of radioactive isotopes and the gravitational energy from the earth’s original formation.

• Heating of earth’s surface and atmosphere by the sun drives convection within the atmosphere and oceans, producing winds and ocean currents.

• Global climate is determined by energy transfer from the sun at and near the earth’s surface. This energy transfer is influenced by dynamic processes such as cloud cover and the earth’s rotation, and static conditions such as the position of mountain ranges and oceans.

GEOCHEMICAL CYCLES
• Movement of matter between reservoirs is driven by the earth’s internal and external sources of energy. These movements are often accompanied by a change in the physical and chemical properties of the matter. Carbon, for example, occurs in carbonate rocks such as limestone, in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide gas, in water as dissolved carbon dioxide, and in all organisms as complex molecules that control the chemistry of life.

Teacher Background
Most of the world’s air pollutants are not visible to the human eye. The pollution we often see in cities is called smog. The particulate that makes up this air pollution can come from a variety of sources: volcanoes, ash, pollen, dust, automobile exhaust, chemical fumes, etc. Pollutants created in one area of the world do not stay in that area. That pollution is carried by global winds around the world. Larger heavier particles do not travel as far as small, light particles, which can travel thousands of miles before falling back to the Earth.

More great information is available at USA Today Weather Basics - (http://www.usatoday.com/weather/resources/basics/wworks0.htm)

Related and Resource Websites
Path of Pollution
http://www.tnrcc.state.tx.us/air/monops/lessons/pathlesson.html

Tracing Atmospheric Winds
http://www.msnucleus.org/membership/html/k-6/wc/atmosphere/6/wcat6_2a.html

Mt. St. Helens Ash Plume Path
http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes/MSH/Maps/map_may18_ash_path.html

 


Activity

Part One
1. Distribute a US map to each student, or group. Tell students that they will be mapping the flow of pollutants released into the air from the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helen’s in Washington State. It would be appropriate at this time to give students a bit of background on the eruption itself.

2. Send groups back to their laboratory tables with the Mt. St. Helens handout. Have students plot the locations where ash appeared. When all 18 points have been plotted ask students to draw in what they believe to be the directions of the prevailing winds.

3. Have groups share their findings with the class. They should be prepared to discuss and debate any disagreements. What does the fallout from the eruption at Mt. St. Helens tell us about the wind patterns in the United States? [Overall it blows west to east] Does the fallout pattern cover all of the United States? [Most but not all] Do they think that same pattern appears during the entire year? [The overall pattern blows west to east, but the dips vary depending upon the season and the location of the high and low pressure zones] What do they think causes the dip near Ohio? [A low pressure zone and a polar cold front caused by cold Canadian air flowing south]

Part Two
1. Distribute a World Map to each student or group. Tell students they will be mapping the flow of radioactive materials released into the atmosphere during a 1986 explosion at a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. (At the time of the explosion, Chernobyl was part of the Soviet Union.) The plant exploded during a maintenance procedure and was announced to the world 2 days after the explosion.

2. Send groups back to their laboratory tables with the Chernobyl handout. Have students plot the locations where the fallout appeared. (Since there are so many points it is advisable to tell students to mark the points with a number representing the day the radiation was detected at a specific site. For example, radiation arrived in Glasgow, Scotland on day 8. Students should place a dot over Glasgow and the number 8.) When all 29 points have been plotted ask students to draw in what they believe to be the directions of the prevailing winds.

3. Have groups share their findings with the class. They should be prepared to discuss and debate any disagreements. What does the fallout from the explosion at Chernobyl tell us about the wind patterns in Europe and the rest of the world? [The winds in Europe blow east to west primarily, but some winds are directed south and then are blown north over Great Britain and up to Norway.] What does this tell us about the effects of pollution in one area? [Pollution in one area can travel great distances and affect the globe.]

Closure
Tell students they will be exploring the effects of these wind patterns on global weather patterns. They have seen evidence of what scientists refer to as the Westerlies and the Jet Stream. These wind patterns are important forces determining the weather in the United States and much of Europe and Asia. There are other wind patterns that have significant roles as well and it will be their job to determine the roles of these wind patterns over the course of the quarter.

Homework
Write a 2-3 sentence conclusion in your science notebook. Conclusions show what you learned and should be thought-provoking.

Embedded Assessment
Do students correctly plot the locations pollution was found? Do they explain the movement of these particles in terms of air currents? Do they begin to see the Westerlies?

 


 


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:


an
NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award

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Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694


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