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Creating clouds: Meteorologist brings weather lessons to Bullhead City Middle School

October 12, 2018

BULLHEAD CITY — Bullhead City Middle School students had their weather preconceptions shattered Thursday.

The deadliest form of weather? It’s not a hurricane or tornado, Dan Berc said, but extreme heat.

Can tornadoes form in Bullhead City?

Yes, though they’re not as large or as destructive as the twisters found in Kansas or Oklahoma, Berc said.

“They’re small and they don’t really last long,” the meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Las Vegas office said. “They’re a little stronger than dust devils.”

Can we make our own clouds?

Yes, and Berc demonstrated the process for the students during a pair of presentations at the school as part of its science curriculum.

He explained that a cloud is formed when water vapor rises from warm air into a colder part of the atmosphere and condenses onto dust, salt or smoke particles. He made a cloud by placing some water into a jug, dropping in a lit match and pumping more air into the jug to “fool the water into thinking it’s rising.”

When he drew back the pump, the inside of the jug was indeed cloudy. The students responded first with a collective “whoa,” then with boisterous applause.

Sixth-grader Brayden Oudin called it one of the coolest science experiments he has seen.

“It was interesting,” he said. “I learned a lot of new things.”

Lead science teacher Marcella Morris said Berc’s visit came as the sixth-graders are studying the layers of the atmosphere and discussing weather.

“It was a very good presentation,” Morris said. “He pretty much reiterated and reinforced everything that we’ve been going over. He was very informative, and with the experiment — that was top-notch.”

Sixth-grader Lillie Gonzales said she thinks she will pay more attention to the weather after seeing Berc’s presentation.

Fifth-graders, Morris said, are studying gravity and forces of motion. Berc gave a later presentation to them.

At the sixth-grade assembly, Berc said that weather is caused by the sun. Namely that it doesn’t shine the same all over the Earth.

He likened it to a child sleeping with his toes outside the blanket covering the rest of his body.

“Your body wants to be all the same temperature,” Berc said. “So does the Earth. Weather is the Earth trying to make itself the same temperature.”

Berc covered topics that included the difference between climate and weather (the former refers to the weather tendencies of an area, the latter to specific conditions at a particular time), the role that meteorology plays in aviation, climate change, cloud types, common weather seen in the Tri-state and the equipment he uses.

He also talked about the requirements to become a meteorologist. Those include science and math skills, knowledge of computers and an understanding of physical geography.

“And communications skills,” Berc said. “I can sit in my office and be the best meteorologist in the world, but if I can’t communicate with you and tell you what it means, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Berc left parting gifts that included a weather balloon and some used instruments for the science classes, as well as a new emergency weather radio for the school office, district spokesman Lance Ross said.

Pull quote:

“Weather is the Earth trying to make itself the same temperature.”

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