Byron Center West Middle School students learned the answers to some interesting questions about weather phenomena from meteorologist Terri DeBoer recently. “Who knows why we hear thunder?” she asked students. She equated the sound to opening a pop can, explaining how the heat from the lightning makes the air expand inside a cloud, which creates a noise.
The well-known Wood TV8 broadcaster illustrated with a lightning ball how items work as conductors and brought a mini-tornado to life inside a machine. Science teacher Justin VandePol incorporated DeBoer’s visit into a weather unit for which students will complete projects on severe weather.
She told students that weather is fascinating but can be very dangerous, even with modern technology providing warnings. “If we are out in a thunderstorm, we are really good conductors of energy,” she said.
Seventh-grader Emma Newhouse proved the theory by touching the lightning ball, attracting the current toward her finger.
Students wondered how often tornadoes happen in West Michigan, and DeBoer said though only 8 of 10 spottings are verified, it is important to always take cover. “There is a pretty strong chance that in the next couple years, we could end up with an F4 or F5 tornado in West Michigan,” she said. “We are way overdue.”
DeBoer, the first certified female meteorologist in Michigan, encouraged girls to pursue careers in science and math. She said things have come a long way since she was certified in 1995, with more and more women becoming meteorologists all the time.