NOAA and partners develop workshops on flash floods to support local teachers

Emergency responders at the site of a washed out road during the 2013 Colorado floods. (Photo credit: Wil von Dauster, NOAA)
Emergency responders at the site of a washed out road during the 2013 Colorado floods. (Photo credit: Wil von Dauster, NOAA)

With the one-year anniversary of the historic 2013 Colorado floods in mind, NOAA, UCAR, and CU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) collaborated to convene educational workshops, which support local teachers with lesson plans about flash floods. The workshops, organized by Education Specialist Hilary Peddicord, of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) and CIRES, are being held in two parts: The first was in February at the David Skaggs Research Center in Boulder and included talks by scientists from the National Weather Service (NWS) and ESRL’s Physical Sciences Division (PSD). The second was at Boulder Valley School’s back-to-school mini-conference in August and provided participants with hands-on educational materials that they could take back to their classroom to commemorate the anniversary.

Researchers at DSRC who gave presentations include, Kelly Mahoney, a scientist with PSD and CIRES, discussing the September 2013 flood as compared to other historic floods; and Robert Glancy, a meteorologist with the NWS Denver-Boulder Weather Forecast Office, discussing atmospheric conditions that produced the 500-year rain event that caused the extensive flooding.

“I wish this was a presentation for every person in our district,” Marcelle Partridge, a Boulder High School Chemistry teacher commented in an email, which led to the development of the August workshop.

Resources used for the classroom materials include NOAA’s SOS Explorer (a new classroom education tool developed at ESRL’s Global Systems Division, which showcases GOES IR satellite imagery, provides access to SOS datasets, and allows a unique viewing capability of the Earth System), UCAR's new Flash Flood Teaching Box (a curated collection of online learning activities and resources), Boulder floodplain maps, weather storm totals, and PSD climatological records.

To conclude the flash flood workshop series, Peddicord will take the lesson plans to Centennial Middle School on September 12th, testing out the curriculum on 8th graders, many of whom were directly affected by the 2013 floods.

“I believe events like the 2013 floods are an example of a lasting teaching moment,” said Peddicord. “One in which students can understand first-hand the power of weather, and remember it for years to come.”