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A Hurricane of Data

Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/4922919159/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Did you know that scientists have used quartiles to study hurricanes? At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), researchers compared data on the amount of rainfall in a region of Africa and the frequency of hurricanes thousands of miles away, in Florida. What they discovered was fascinating!

Quartiles, Rainfall, and Hurricanes

How did this all begin? In 1991, the scientists at NOAA started to look at data regarding the amount of rainfall in the Sahel region of Africa, a stretch of land located south of the Sahara Desert. They compared this data with the number of hurricanes that struck the Florida coast in the same year. The scientists formed a hypothesis: they believed that there was a connection between higher amounts of rainfall in this region of Africa and a higher frequency of hurricanes in the same year. But, before they could state this with certainty, they had to look at statistics—quartiles, in particular.

Credit: Laura Guerin
Source: CK-12 Foundation
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The scientists looked back over four quartiles of data on rainfall in the Sahel region. Each quartile was 11 years long. They then looked at the frequency of different categories of hurricanes that had occurred in Florida during the same time periods. By comparing the data on rainfall and hurricanes for each quartile, the scientists noticed that the frequency of hurricanes in the wettest quartiles was higher than the frequency of hurricanes in the driest times for each category of hurricane. They concluded that there is a connection between Sahel rainfall and hurricane frequency in Florida.

Take a look at this video to understand how hurricanes form: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VF6pOpAXxTY 

Explore More

Use the first website below to learn more about hurricanes. Then check out the following video to see the effects of different categories of tropical storms. Watch the last clip for a detailed explanation of how to find percentiles and quartiles of data sets.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/weather/hurricane/science.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqfExHpvLRY 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Snf6Wpn-L4c 

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/4922919159/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Laura Guerin; Source: CK-12 Foundation; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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