Winter-Weather Whizzes

`MOM, I'm bored!'' It was a dreary Saturday afternoon in December - the kind that's too cold for playing outside. If there were snow, I wouldn't have minded the cold so much.

My brother Henry and I were sitting at the kitchen table doing a puzzle - the same one we'd put together the previous Saturday.

``I'm bored, too,'' Henry said. ``There's nothing to do.'' He had already spent the morning sorting his baseball cards. Henry was so bored that he even cleaned the hamster cage before Mom told him to.

``Kids, why don't you go outside for a little while? Throw a baseball or something.'' Mom suggested. She was making a salad for dinner.

I looked out the kitchen window. I could see Lake Erie from where I was sitting. Not long ago, the lake had been blue and warm and just right for swimming. Now it was all grayish-brown. The trees that lined the bank of the lake didn't have leaves anymore, and the wind whipped through their bare branches.

``Mom, it's too cold out to have any fun,'' I said. Henry and I would have to put on mittens, scarves, sweaters - the works. By the time you have all those clothes on, it's too hard to run around. Who can play catch with mittens on anyway?

Mom looked as if she were thinking. ``Now, how do you know it's too cold outside, Anne? What do you think the temperature is?''

``Well....'' I said. ``It's probably only about 30 degrees.'' Hmm, she was right. I didn't exactly know it was cold out. I just thought it was.

``It's probably 20 degrees!'' Henry added.

Mom stopped peeling carrots and started rustling through the kitchen drawers. She pulled out a thermometer from under a potato masher. ``I think you two should go figure out how cold it really is,'' she said.

Henry and I put on our coats and went outside with the thermometer. Mom didn't even make us wear our mittens - I think she was secretly glad we'd found something to do!

The wind was blowing leaves across the yard. I zipped the top of my coat up a little higher. Henry and I walked down to the lake shore. The waves were really big with whitecaps. A few brave sea gulls bobbed up and down over them.

``How many degrees is it, Henry?'' It felt pretty cold with that wind.

Henry held the thermometer up and studied it. He looked confused.

``It says it's 48 degrees,'' he finally said. ``It doesn't feel like 48.''

``Are you sure that thermometer is working right? It feels a lot colder than that. I still think it's only about 30.''

Henry and I ran back inside the house with the wind at our backs. I could feel my cheeks stinging from the wind.

``Mom, I don't think this thermometer works,'' I said. ``It's really cold.''

``That's funny,'' she said. ``Last time I used it for cooking, it worked fine. Go find your dad and see if he has one.''

We found Dad cleaning out his aquarium. Dad was a science teacher, and he liked stuff like aquariums, telescopes, and rocks. He kept tropical fish in a big tank, and had to keep the temperature just right because the fish like warm water.

``Dad, can we borrow that thermometer? Mom's is broken,'' Henry said.

``Sure, kids. This one is fine. I just measured the temperature in the tank,'' Dad said.

We went back out to the lake shore. This time I took my mittens. Henry put on his red stocking hat.

``Let me do it this time,'' I said. I watched the thin red line drop lower and lower. Then it stopped - at 48 degrees.

``I don't understand,'' Henry said. ``It just feels so much colder.''

We went back inside to tell Mom what had happened.

``Do you know why it feels so cold?'' she asked. ``It's because of `wind chill.' When it's windy outside, it feels colder that what the thermometer says.''

Dad had finished cleaning the fish tank and was helping Mom chop lettuce. ``Let's go to the library and get a book about weather, kids,'' he said.

We came home an hour later with three books for kids about weather. They had pictures and experiments that Henry and I could do at home. The books explained what wind chill is and how to measure air pressure and rainfall.

Henry and I started recording the air and water temperature every day after school. The water temperature didn't change very much - every couple days it would go down one or two degrees - but the air temperature changed all the time. Some days didn't get up above 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but once it actually reached 70!

Then one day Dad looked excited when he came home from teaching school. ``Guess what, kids?'' he said. ``I brought someone you might like to meet.''

``Hi, Henry and Anne. I hear that you two are getting to be weather experts,'' the man said.

``Kids, this is Jim. He used to be a student in my science class, and now he's a meteorologist,'' Dad said.

``That's what we want to be,'' Henry said.

Dad suggested that we all go outside so Jim could show us some ways to predict weather. We all walked out to the lake shore - and Jim said he could show us how to predict weather just by looking at the clouds.

``See those feathery clouds? The ones high up?'' Jim asked us. ``Those are called cirrus. If they're in the west or northwest, then the weather will be good.''

The clouds were in the northwest. ``So no rain or snow, right?'' I said.

``Well, that depends,'' Jim said. ``Which way is the wind coming from?''

We faced the lake, which was north. The wind was coming from behind us at an angle. ``It's from the southeast, I think,'' Henry said.

``In that case, there will probably be precipitation - that's rain or snow - within the next day or so,'' Jim said.

Jim gave us a chart (you can probably find one in a library book) that had pictures of clouds and showed what kind of weather each one indicated. Pretty soon, Henry and I knew the names of many different clouds, like cumulonimbus and altostratus.

We decided to expand our chart, and to make observations at exactly 3 o'clock each day. Jim said that it's more scientific to take measurements at exactly the same time every day. Henry liked measuring rainfall and wind. I liked to take the air temperature and check the barometer. Usually, Henry and I looked at the clouds together, because sometimes they're difficult to figure out.

By the third week in December, the rainfall had mostly changed to snow, and the lake water was getting pretty cold. Ice had started to form on the lake shore.

Mom and Dad stopped listening to the weather reports on the radio; instead, they asked us. And most of the time, we were right!

On New Year's Eve, we all walked out to the lake shore at 3 o'clock to do our weather observations. Mom and Dad came: They wanted to know if it was going to be a snowy New Year's Day. Even though there had been some snow already, it had all melted on a 40-degree day earlier in the week.

Henry recorded his data. I checked the sky and the barometer. Hmm ... altocumulus ... falling barometer ... 30 degrees. It was looking pretty good for some serious snow.

Henry and I made our official prediction: ``Definitely a white New Year's coming!''

On New Year's Day, we all woke up to the fluffiest, whitest snow - everything was covered, and the snow was still falling. A perfect weather prediction! `Kidspace' is a place on The Home Forum pages where kids can find stories that will spark imaginations, entertain with a tall tale, explain how things work, or describe a real-life event. These articles appear twice a month, usually on Tuesdays.

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