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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Losing Ground - a documentary about urban sprawl

Maybe we (Earth Science teachers) should spend more time teaching students about soil (the forgotten natural resouce) and help students understand this issue. We lose 175 acres of land to urban sprawl every hour! The documentary will premiere on May 27,2019 and then will be available on the "Angus TV" YouTube Channel after that - Mark your calendar.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Kelvin-Helmholtz Clouds Caused by Wind Shear

The right place, at the right time.
This photo of an amazing Kelvin-Helmholtz cloud was taken on January 26, 2019 by Hannah Martin, one of my freshman Earth Science students at Helena High School. She snapped the photo from the Helena Valley, looking west - Mount Helena can be seen on the left, and the distant horizon marks the Continental Divide. Also known as "fluctus" or "billow" clouds, they were named after Lord Kelvin (1824-1907) and Hermann Von Helmholtz (1821-1894) who identified the type of instability responsible for the unique waves. Such clouds are fairly rare, and may only last for a few minutes.

Like wind across water.
The waves form at the boundary between layers of air that have different densities and wind speeds (wind shear). Air in the layer above the cloud is moving faster than air in the layer containing the cloud. Development of waves on the cloudy layer is similar to what happens when waves form on the ocean as wind blows across the water. In the photo the wavy layer is more dense than the clear air flowing above it - just as water is more dense than air blowing over its surface.

Clouds provide a "visual".
The type of motion that causes the wave pattern is actually not that uncommon in the atmosphere, although we usually don't see it. In order for us to see it, clouds must be present in the lower layer (as they were when the photo was taken). We can't see clear air, but we can see clouds. One of the nice things about clouds is they provide clues about the type of motion currently happening in the atmosphere. Want to know more? - Watch the 4.5-minute video below, which includes a great demo.

Term for students to define: wind shear

1. Article - More about KH Clouds

2. Another good article about KH Clouds

Friday, January 18, 2019

Check out the Lunar Eclipse on Sunday, January 20th.

The eclipse will start at 7:36 pm MST, and will about 5 hours from start to finish. Hopefully it will be clear where you live! To find out more about the timing, etc., here are a couple resources . . .

1. Go to and enter your location.

2. Read how to watch at

The video below is not specific to the eclipse of January 2019, but it does an nice job of explaining different aspects of lunar eclipses.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Enter your address to see where you would have been millions of years ago.

This is a fantastic interactive visualization that was created (and is maintained) by Ian Webster. Once the site opens, enter your address in the box in the upper left, then select the time (in Earth's history) near the top of the web page. To see more of Ian's work, go to

Thanks to Rick Dees for showing me this!